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Shuttle and ISS

An orbiting Shuttle is one of the brighter satellites that you can watch.  Only the Iridium satellites outshine a shuttle (but only for a very few seconds at a time!).

...and if you can catch a Shuttle launch (they only take place from the Kennedy Space Center, in Florida), so much the better -- better act quickly, though: there is only ONE shuttle flight left!

The photographs on this page are of the launch of the STS-109 Hubble refurbishment mission, which took place just before dawn on March 1, 2002. SkyLights follower Neil Wagner was present, and took these shots, using a digital camera, from Titusville (around 12 miles away). The shots posted here are considerably more compressed than Neil's originals, to save disk space and speed your downloading time.
Shuttle Orbiter climbs into the dawn sky. Copyright 2002 by Neil Wagner
Shuttle Orbiter climbs into the dawn sky.
SRB exhaust brilliantly lit by dawn's early light. Copyright 2002 by Neil Wagner
SRB exhaust brilliantly lit by dawn's early light.
Solid Rocket Booster separation. Copyright 2002 by Neil Wagner
Solid Rocket Booster separation.

As of STS-112, there is a new way to watch shuttle flights. You can catch the view from atop the External Tank using the ShuttleCam. Here's another example, of the STS-114 launch. ShuttleCam is another application of the onboard cameras manufactured by Ecliptic Enterprises. The recent STS-114 flight also carried a rocketcam on the External Tank -- which spied a long strip of ET insulation foam being shed a few seconds after SRB separation. (You can review this video online at SpaceFlightNow.com if you have a video subscription.)

A good place to keep track of shuttle missions is at NASA's Space Shuttle Web Site.

The large structures associated with the ISS construction missions make for good viewing. Check the Heavens Above web site for predictions.
NASA also provides country-by-country predictions. Their California city predictions can be handy, too.

STS-107 reentry trail over Las Vegas.  Copyright 2003 by Vic Panegasser. The shuttle orbiter can also be visible while it re-enters the atmosphere, on its way to landing in Florida. Depending on the orbital track, folks in central California, Nevada, and Arizona can see the shuttle's glow and wake, especially if it takes place before dawn.
On the morning of February 1, 2003, 22-year-old shuttle orbiter Columbia was on its way to a landing when Vic Panegasser took this 8 second exposure of its passing, from his home in Las Vegas, Nevada. Very shortly after Vic took this photo, Columbia broke up over Texas.
(This image is copyrighted 2003 by Vic Panegasser.)

Another very interesting tidbit: It is actually possible to image Shuttle and a space station from the ground, without a military-sized budget. For details and example images, check out this site.

Apparently, the SkyShow website has been down for a little while. You may wish to investigate the images and references at SatObs.org's website, instead.


Hearing The Shuttle

BOOM! ... BOOM!
On Friday, June 22, 2007, at around 12:43 PM, I'm sitting at my keyboard, working away. Suddenly, I hear a pair of low-frequency BOOMs. I remember that the Shuttle had been waved off of at least one landing opportunity in Florida that morning. Given the sound, I'm fairly well convinced that I've just heard a re-entering Shuttle.

I pay a quick visit to SpaceFlightNow.com, and sure enough, the Shuttle is on its way to Edwards AFB. I quickly tune in NASA TV in time to watch the shuttle making its turn on the HAC. I sent out a query to the subscribers list, asking who else heard the Shuttle coming in.
Here are some responses.

No sonic booms in the San Fernando Valley, So Cal, however, we got to see it fly over about 4 minutes prior to touch down. It appeared to be in level flight heading approx 360 degrees.

Mike,
San Fernando Valley, CA
I was out in the front yard, here in Hesperia, waiting for it and it did not disappoint, good loud double boom you could feel in your lungs.

Dave,
Hesperia, CA
Yup. I'm at Mira Mesa Blvd and 805. There's construction next door, and I though a truck hit the building or something.

dave
San Diego, CA
YEP! I HAD HEARD THAT THE SPACE SHUTTLE WAS GOING TO LAND AROUND 12:53 P.M. AND WAS WATCHING ON A LIVE STREAM FROM A LOCAL TV CHANNEL WHILE AT WORK. FUNNY, THOUGH, AS A LOT OF MY CO-WORKERS WERE NOT AWARE THAT THE SPACE SHUTTLE WAS LANDING AT EDWARDS AFB AND THOUGHT IT WAS AN EARTHQUAKE OR SOMETHING! I GOT A GOOD LAUGH FIRST AND THEN TOLD THEM IT WAS THE SPACE SHUTTLE COMING IN TO LAND.

KATHY
CORONA, CA
Yes we did! We heard it here in Lake Forest, CA (Orange County), at the same time that we were watching the approach on TV on breaking news on FOX Channel 11. It was so cool!!!

Dea (and son Matthew, age 14)
Lake Forest, CA
The twin booms were NOT heard in Thousand Oaks, although a lot of people were outside listening.

Mark
Thousand Oaks, CA
Yes. I did hear it. I was having lunch at Montgomery Field, but I didn't recognize what it was until I got back to work and read your email. Good call!

Jim
San Diego, CA
We did - in Riverside. I ran to the TV with the kids and watched the landing.

Mitch
Riverside, CA
Bummer! Nope, nothing here in Glendale.

Brian
Glendale, CA
Of course we did! But then again we got a head's up from the news on the radio...

It shook the roof!

Mary Lu
Diamond Bar, CA
Even though we are closer to Edwards AFB, we didn't hear it in the L.A. area, but then again the flight path was from the south, so I didn't think we'd hear it. If they had missed that window, we would have heard it on the next attempt as the path would have been from the west.

As for passes, got a good look at the ISS last night, thanks to Heavens-Above.com. Another bright pass will come on Saturday (June 23) night.

Thanks for all your work on launch info,
A loyal fan.

John
Los Angeles, CA
This is Richard L in Calimesa, by crow's flight approximate 37 miles West of Palm Springs and approximately two miles south of Yucaipa and roughly eight miles south from Redlands and just East of Interstate 10, Latitude 33-59-47 and Longitude 117-02-29. The double sonic boom was not only heard but I felt the percussion from it, and it really shook my up dog's. It wasn't as bad as the Landers quake though. Take care. Keep up the good work! 73's

Richard
Calimesa, CA
Shook the house!

Frank
Laguna Hills, CA
Living here in North Park, My first thought was that the neighbors were having a heated domestic furniture re-arrangement event, but when the news break mentioned sonic booms it did seem to correlate to the timing. Interesting was that it sounded like two booms then a brief pause followed by a repeat.

boom boom pause boom boom
very rhythmic cadence, unlike random noises during a squabble.

Bart
San Diego, CA
Sat outside 5 mins prior to touchdown in LA...and...nothing. Saw them both fly overhead Thurs night though. As I recall in the past, the double boom was about 5 mins prior to touchdown

Steve,
Long Beach, CA
Yep, that's weird that we didn't hear it, especially since I was outside and expecting it. I know they don't cross the threshold of Mach 1 until about 4 or 5 mins prior to landing, and I'm quite certain that's when the pop pop occurs.
What I do know is, this entry approach came in right over San Diego heading north to EAFB.
And, I couldn't see the Delta 2 two weeks ago either, though we were outside next to LAX and looking in the exact direction. A bit too bright outside, and too-clean burning kerosene engines.

BTW: 2 of my brothers work at Rocketdyne (now P& W Rocketdyne) which builds the RS27 engines and more.
And, after my 20 years at Rockwell/Boeing building the shuttles in Downey, I'm now at Northrop building the loud end of the Super Hornets ...
Keep up the good reports for all of us who care...

Steve
Los Angeles, CA
Nope, didn't hear it out in Indio/La Quinta. But I watched the landing on TV and the NASA website. I have followed this mission very closely, as new ISS resident Clay Anderson is a college friend of mine.

David
Indio, CA











Viewing ISS

The International Space Station is a fairly bright orbital target. There are various ways of tracking ISS on your own, but the easiest way is to let someone else do your overflight predictions for you.

Your best bet for viewing ISS is to visit Heavens-Above and get a prediction for your location.

If you have any questions, email me


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