I have determined that I never want to see an alligator ever again unless it’s in a zoo.
This past week had two launches! On Thursday, December 2, there was a Starlink launch at 6:12 PM, while there was a STP (Space Test Program) launch at 5:19 AM on Tuesday, December 7.
The Thursday launch was beautiful. It happened around sunset, so the reddish-orange tail of the exhaust plume had a dark blue/purple background. One of my friends was going down to Port Orange, so I hitched a ride with him after my physics class. We ended up finding a beach access spot about twenty minutes earlier than launch time:
The two of us ended up talking and hanging out until the actual launch happened. It was on a SpaceX Falcon 9, and it went off right at the scheduled launch time. I’d never watched a launch from anywhere that wasn’t close before, so it was definitely a new experience.
I couldn’t hear the noise over the sound of waves crashing on the beach, but it was still a pretty view. Even up close, the rocket isn’t huge, but from here it looked more like a timelapse of a sunrise. It’s definitely a good way to watch if you don’t want to drive all the way down to Titusville.
The Tuesday launch had several delays. It was scheduled for Sunday at 4:04 AM, then moved to Monday, and finally moved to Tuesday. On Tuesday, at T-4 (four minutes before it was scheduled to launch), it was delayed again to 5:03 AM and eventually launched at 5:19 AM. I’m just glad it wasn’t a total scrub- it’s about an hour’s drive to the launch site each way. Luckily, my earliest class was 3:45 in the afternoon, so I was fine to drive down.
Well, our group had arrived at around 3:45. One of my friends had brought his camera, which he set up, and the other two and I ended up looking over at the water. Someone spotted a gator under the dark water, which scared me a bit- I’m not from Florida and have no experience with wild alligators. It ended up making a splash, but then it became silent again.
Once the launch was delayed, all four of us ended up getting back in the car. We sat around and talked about our classes and experiences at Riddle. That’s one thing that I love about the people in this school- everyone has a shared interest in aviation, aerospace, or both. And everyone who goes to a rocket launch at crazy hours of the morning loves aerospace.
Fog had started to roll in around 5:19, but we were still able to get a good view:
The fog wasn’t too thick, so it didn’t really obstruct our view. This launch was pretty loud, and the alligators around us apparently did not appreciate the disturbance. So a few moments after the rumble had started, we heard a different sort of noise- an alligator growl.
What happened next was a blur. I was closest to the car, about ten feet away, and I jumped in it with everyone else following quickly behind. Unfortunately for us, the camera that we’d set up was still outside, so we ended up backing the car to the camera and pulling it in through the back window. We all watched the rocket curve across the sky from the car, and once it disappeared, we left before running into any more agitated alligators.
Overall, it’s been a pretty good week in terms of launches. There’s one scheduled for Thursday at 1 AM, but I’ll likely not be going since it’s the end of the semester and I need to study for finals. I actually only have three this year- physics, thermodynamics, and statics. It was nice to have a break in between this crazy pre-finals week and watch some launches, knowing that it’s what I’ll work on once I graduate. I’ll see you in the next post, and hopefully at Riddle!