MISSILE LAUNCES FROM
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, CA

The following pictures (and movies, when I get them) are of missile launches at Vandenberg Air Force Base, VBG, as viewed from sites near Santa Barbara.

The picture groups are "most recent at the top."  Within each group the picture sequence progressives with time increasing downward.

I hope you have a monitor setting of at least 1024x768, otherwise some of the pictures will be larger than your display (sorry if that happens).

    _________________________  2001.11.07  __________________________________________________

This sequence is of a Minuteman III, launched from Vandenberg shortly after midnight, November 7, 2001.  I was located 50 miles away at the FAA station on East Camino Cielo, at an altitude of 3400 feet (north of Santa Barbara).  All pictures are with a Nikon Coolpix 990 digital camera.

Launch occured at 0:18 AM, PST.  The "sea-like" stratus cloud layer is illuminated by the rocket exhaust during this 8-second exposure.  The bright path is a trace of the point-like rocket exhaust, showing its penetration of the cloud layer.

About 30 seconds after launch this 8-second exposure traces the rocket's path.

This 8-second exposure occurs after the booster rocket has separated and falls behind, tumbling and creating a dotted pattern, as the second stage continues to blast the Minuteman III onward (toward the upper-left).  Image scale is twice that of the previous image.  (I'm assuming the dotted pattern is the first-stage booster; a Minuteman III is a 3-stage rocket.)

The booster rocket continues to tumble and is still visible owing to it's being "red-hot."  The 10 dots indicate a tumble rate of 1.25 rotations per second.  Several stars are visible in addition to the "pixel grain" of this 8-second exposure.  Same image scale.

At this higher altitude the rocket exhaust becomes luminescent; the booster rocket is barely visible lower-right of center.  Image scale is 40% that of previous image.

Three minutse after launch the iridescent exhaust trail spreads and dims just before the second stage is shut down (again, I'm assuming we're seeing the second stage, but maybe it's the third and final stage).  Several stars are visible in these 8-second exposures.  Smaller image scale.
 

    _________________________  2001.10.18  __________________________________________________

A Boeing Delta 2 rocket carrying the QuickBird satellite was launched at 11:51 AM, PDST, October 18, 2001.  [Nikon Coolpix 990 digital camera, FAA Station on East Camino Cielo Road, Santa Barbara, 3400 feet ASL, 50 miles away, looking west]

    _________________________  2000.07.07  __________________________________________________

The following sequence shows the plume from an Air Force modified Minuteman II launced from VBG shortly after sunset.  The missile was a Star Wars test, sending an unarmed warhead and balloon decoy southwestward, toward Kwajalein, in the South Pacific.

2000.07.07, 9:20:35 PM, PDST, 3.5 minutes after launch.

[You may click this image to see a larger version; this can be done for all other images on this page.  Also, in case your view of the enlarged image is low quality (i.e., wavy transitions of sky brightness), you should change your web browser viewer setting from "internal viewer" to a "user specified viewer" (Netscape and IE have low quality internal viewers).  This can be done by follwong the instructions at Specifying Alternative to Internal Viewer.]

2000.07.07, 9:21:42 PM, PDST,  4.0 minutes after launch.

2000.07.07, 9:24:28 PM, PDST, 7 minutes after launch.  (Stars are visible in the larger image format.)

    _________________________  2001.10.02  __________________________________________________

1999.10.02.  7:08 PM, PDST, from my residence.  Since the sun has already set at ground level, the sky is dark yet the rocket plume is illuminated by the sun.  The view is to the west, so what we see from the plume ice particles is "forward scattering" of sunlight.  These are ideal conditions for viewing a rocket plume, as shown by the following two images, taken a few minutes later.

1999.10.02.  7:11 PM, PDST.

1999.10.02.  7:15 PM, PDST.

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This site opened:  October 18, 2001 Last Update:  November 7, 2001