Rocket Launch at December Nights

Tonight we stopped by our local winery just a mile or so from our house to walk around and enjoy their December nights celebration.  It’s as close as Diana and I can get to a German Christmas Market that we loved to go to when we were stationed with the U.S. Air Force in Europe.  Tonight we had a taste of Germany and the Air Force.  All images on my Leica M(typ262) and the Summilux 50mm.

While we were at the winery we witnessed the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex-4 at Vandenberg Air Force Base on California’s central coast.  The email from my launch alert email read like this:

30th Space Wing Public Affairs
December 20, 2017

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — Team Vandenberg is scheduled to
launch the fourth Iridium mission consisting of 10 satellites on a
SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex-4 here Friday, Dec.
22, at 5:27 p.m. PST.

Col. Michael S. Hough, 30th Space Wing commander, is the space launch

“Team Vandenberg is excited to begin and end 2017 with Falcon 9
launches,” said Hough. “We take our mission of providing assured
access to space seriously and we’ve diligently worked with our SpaceX
mission partners to ensure a safe and successful launch.”

Because of the launch time, the Hawk’s Nest on Hwy 1 south of
Vandenberg Air Force Base’s main gate will not be open.



Friday evening’s launch of a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg AFB
appears to be on schedule. The vehicle is slated to lift off from
south base at 17:27:23 PST and carry several Iridium NEXT commercial
communications satellites into orbit.

Following liftoff, the vehicle will climb vertically for several
before it begins a gradual turn and heads south.

The rocket’s bright flame should be visible over a wide area. However,
since this launch occurs 30 minutes after Vandenberg AFB sunset, it
could be impressive beginning at T+ 2 minutes 12 seconds when
simulations show the exhaust plume will be illuminated at high
altitude by the sun.

And here is what we saw while we were enjoying December Nights at the Bernardo Winery.

Our first look at the Falcon 9.  It had just separated a first stage, note the smoke plume.

Here you can see what appears to be a section of the rocket separating inside the plume.

The Falcon 9 continuing its ascent through a grove of palm trees at the Bernardo Winery.

The tip of the plume was amazing to watch as the rocket continued its ascent.  Note the stage falling away in the lower section of the plume.

A shooting star, perfect for the Christmas season.

The contrail catching the light of the setting sun below the horizon


Lots of people in the full spirit of the holiday season.

Beautiful horse carriages if you wanted to take a short ride around the winery.

Lots of great entertainment to enjoy while sipping on a glass of wine.

Vendors as well, just like the German Markets we love.

Food trucks abound at the winery.



New state of the art coffee bean roaster being set up at the new Manzanita Roasting Company on the winery grounds.  The new craft coffee store will open in March 2018.


As always, thanks for reading!


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