First Person: SpaceX's New Falcon 9 Rocket Launch Soars from California

September 5, 2014 – 10:48 am
Falcon 9 Lifts Off from SpaceX’s Pad at Vandenberg, September 2013SpaceX's improved Falcon 9 left the pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base on Sept. 29, 2013, at just after 9 am (local time). The press watched from a remote viewing site, as the blowtorch-like flame ascended.
Credit: Rod Pyle

I pigeonholed 2nd Lt. Kaylee Ausbun, our public relations officer for the morning. She ran a good show under the conditions. It was nearing 9 a.m., the opening of a three-hour launch window, though the word had been passed that they were expected to launch at 9:21. The PA system droned on in the background, as system checklists were completed.

Distant Press View of Falcon 9 Launch"We're here to see the launch of the Falcon 9 rocket today, " Ausbun said. "This is a historic event for Vandenberg, as this will be our third launch within a week. The last time this happened was 2004, when …" There was a flash in the corner of my eye and a rumble to the south.

Muttering the unprintable, I let the other journalists around me know in no uncertain terms that the Falcon was taking off. A low rumble spread across the range as the blowtorch-bright orange engine plume rose from SLC-4. The rocket ascended slowly into the bright blue morning. [Watch the new Falcon 9 rocket launch into space (Video)]

Kaylee AusbunJournalists are less prone than others to cheering at such times, but smiles were everywhere as SpaceX CEO (and billionaire) Elon Musk's latest and newest version of the Falcon 9 rocketsuccessfully launched into a polar orbit, twisting to the south as it did so.

"That was spectacular!" said Jim Spellman, formerly of Vandenberg's media operations and now head of the Western Spaceport chapter of the National Space Society. "It would have been even better with a countdown, " he added with a smirk.

And that had indeed been missing. While there was a count on the video stream delivered from SpaceX to the web, for some reason the PA system at the press site had apparently been tuned to an engineering audio loop. It made for some surprised faces a few minutes prior.

"Like any launch, that was really exciting!" enthused Chris Jordan, a training officer at the base. "I train all the... watch latest Hondrostrong.


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