alexpgp: (Baikonur)
My end client realized, a couple of days ago, that social events had not so much been relegated to the back burner as not even put anywhere near the stove (if I may abuse a metaphor), so a barbecue was arranged for yesterday evening.

Accommodations have expanded somewhat since the last time I was here. In addition to the Fili, Polyot, and Kometa hotels I was familiar with from previous campaigns (named after a neighborhood in Moscow, the word "Flight," and the word "Comet"), a hotel named "Cosmos" has been put into service.

The Cosmos came about as a result of renovating the building that stood next to the Fili, and the result is handsome-looking. There are green areas in front of both the Cosmos and Fili, and gazebo-like structures in both areas that were constructed just for events like barbeques.

Besides the barbecue, there was a launch planned for last night. Not our launch, of course, which is still over three weeks away, but that of a Resurs-P1 satellite for the Russian government, aboard a Soyuz launch vehicle.

The folks that wanted to attend the launch boarded the bus at around 8:40 pm, which got us to the launch site, over at pad complex 31, in plenty of time for us to wait around for nearly two hours before liftoff. According to Google Earth, from our vantage point we were a little over 2.5 km (1.6 mi) from the launch pad. Had we attempted to cut our arrival any closer, there was a chance the traffic controllers working the roads around the launch site would've halted us somewhere rather more distant from the launch pad.

Russian launch procedures involve a countdown, just as U.S. procedures do, but there's no emphasis, no attempt, during the final seconds, to count backward out loud, along the lines of 5... 4... 3... 2... 1... Ignition!... Liftoff! Nor is there any kind of clock you can look at, as I recall being the case at the viewing area at KSC. You have to be listening to the control room exchanges from operator "one" (other operators are assigned other numbers) that are piped out to the viewing area, allowing the spectators to eavesdrop on the proceedings. The effect sounds very much like the public-address-like announcements that sounded so hokey in any Bond movie involving missiles (Dr. No and You Only Live Twice come to mind... "Astronauts, report to dressing rooms!").

In any event, I managed to get my Bloggie into the recording mode just as I heard "Пуск!" ("Ignition!") from the loudspeaker.

Attempting to photograph or video a night launch is, basically, a waste of time (but I do it anyway, go figure). What you end up with is a frame with a bright light inside the borders, unless the shot is taken close to the ground. I extracted the image below from the video I took.

Soyuz liftoff, 25 Jun 13

After about 60 seconds of flight, the rocket entered a cloud layer that hadn't been there two hours earlier, and disappeared. Folks back at our hotel complex who didn't attend the launch said they were treated to an impressive plume display as the rocket gained altitude and entered sunlight (we are fairly up north, and the solstice was just a couple of days ago).

More later...
alexpgp: (Default)
The decision was made to evacuate the general area for this morning's Tsiklon launch, and this included not only the полтинник but also the residential quarter. We ended up at an observation site about 7-9 km away. There was a big concrete slab at the site that I did not get a good shot of, but it had a large, round plate on top that at one time had been connected to some hydraulic mechanisms that would swing the plate into the vertical position. I get the feeling it was a former missile silo, but what do I know?

The Tsiklon looked a lot smaller on the horizon from this location than from the полтинник, and shortly after noon, the rocket was launched:

Tsiklon just after launch, Baikonur Cosmodrome, 5/28/04

We were so far away from the launch area that the noise of the launch - which sounded like the rumble of far-off thunder - reached us only after the rocket had gained significant height and executed its pitch maneuver. Here's another shot, taken perhaps 15-20 seconds after liftoff:

Tsiklon gaining altitude, Baikonur Cosmodrome, 5/28/04

* * *
In reading over the posts of the past few days, I can see where the casual reader might conclude that life is just one long holiday here in Kazakhstan. It's not. Between the interesting bits, there's been an increasing amount of work to be done. I note, for example, that there is no trip to town this weekend, according to the schedules I've seen. Joint ops are imminent.



May. 28th, 2004 09:55 am
alexpgp: (Default)
I tell you, rockets spring up like mushrooms around here. As I look out the window of the interpreter office here in the полтинник, I can see the sleek form of a Tsiklon launch vehicle that's standing probably less than a kilometer away.

Tsiklon from 92A-50, Baikponur, 5/28/04

(The Tsiklon is the item about a third of the way in from the right-hand side of the frame. The fencing along the bottom of the image is that of our building.)

The rocket is scheduled to lift off at around noon, and the folks working here were hoping to have a ringside seat for the launch. However, given the fact that the wind is blowing from the pad towards our building, the word I've heard is that everyone will be removed from here as a safety precaution and transported to an observation area, from where we can safely watch the launch.



alexpgp: (Default)

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