Coverage started 2007 December 5
Updated 2008 February 7
The next launch opportunity for STS 122 is scheduled from the Kennedy Space Center, Launch Complex 39A, to the International Space Station (ISS) at 14:45:28.000 Eastern Standard Time (19:45:28.000 UTC) on 2008 February 7. To help illustrate this event, I created an STK Viewer file for the ascent portion of the launch trajectory—from liftoff to main engine cutoff (MECO)—using data obtained from NASA.
As currently scheduled, this launch is now set to go in the middle of the afternoon on the US East Coast, so it won't be very easy to see, unless you are relatively close by. Still, I would be most interested to hear reports of successful sightings of this launch (especially since I'm not able to see it from here in Colorado), so feel free to send them to me via e-mail, along with suggestions for how I could make this information more useful.
To give a sense of what can be seen in the STK Viewer file, some selected screen shots are included below, along with a description of the information provided therein.
The scenario starts at 14:44:58 EST, just 30 seconds before liftoff. Animating the launch sequence shows the ignition of the main engines at T-6.6 sec followed by the SRB ignition at T-0. The scenario then proceeds through the roll program at T+9.60 sec to T+18.24 sec, SRB separation at T+2:04.80, and ends at MECO at T+8:34.04 (that's all the data we were able to get for this launch).
Screen shot from STK Viewer file of STS 122 launch scenario (T-0)
There are three pre-defined views with closeups of the space shuttle throughout the ascent phase: one from the side, one from the front, and one from the back. An example of the side view at T-0 is shown above. In the upper-left corner, each view shows the current local time, the latitude and longitude of the orbiter, the altitude (of the center of mass) of the orbiter above mean sea level (MSL), the orbiter's total speed, and the downrange distance. In the lower-left corner, there is information on the latitude, longitude, and altitude of the observation point, along with the distance to the space shuttle. The Mission Elapsed Time (MET) and time step are also shown here, along with a compass to give a basic idea of the orientation of the field of view.
A Google Earth location file of the launch scenario, is also available, but it doesn't have all the nice features of the STK Viewer file. Information is contained in that file for how to use it.
Screen shot from STK Viewer file of STS 122 launch scenario (Overhead view)
Throughout the ascent phase, it is easy to see the launch from a variety of viewpoints, with full control of the vantage point and time—all without that pesky smoke from the SRBs—such as the view below as the space shuttle clears the launch tower.
Screen shot from STK Viewer file of STS 122 launch scenario (T+4)
Of course, the STK Viewer file gives you the ability to change viewpoints to more closely examine various aspects of a given event, such as SRB separation. The two images below show views from the front and rear of the orbiter just after SRB separation, using the front and rear pre-defined viewpoints.
Screen shot from STK Viewer file of STS 122 launch scenario (SRB separation, front view)
Screen shot from STK Viewer file of STS 122 launch scenario (SRB separation, rear view)
There are also pre-defined viewpoints from 26 cities up and down the East Coast of the United States and Canada, as seen from the pre-defined home view for the scenario, just prior to MECO. The trajectories for both STS 122 and the ISS show points at 30-sec intervals (e.g., at 14:50:00 EST) to make it easier to determine their position at any particular time. The figure below also shows areas on the ground at each 30-sec point where STS 122 is above the local horizon.
Screen shot from STK Viewer file of STS 122 launch scenario (Space view, East Coast)
There are pre-defined views included from the following cities:
Each city view looks toward the space shuttle throughout ascent, showing when the orbiter will be above or below the local horizon, as seen in the sample view from Orlando below. Note that the thick portion of the ascent profile is from launch up to SRB separation and the thin portion is from that point until MECO.
Screen shot from STK Viewer file of STS 122 launch scenario (View from Orlando, Florida)
I hope you find this information both informative and helpful in sighting the launch of STS 122. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.
For more information on the STS 122 mission, see:
Note: STK Viewer is a free product which allows anyone with a Windows computer to view an STK (System Tool Kit) scenario. With it, you can animate a scenario forward or backward, pause the animation, and zoom or pan the view for a more complete understanding of the event. Just like with Adobe Acrobat, where the authoring software requires a license but the Adobe Reader is free, STK can produce STK Viewer files—also known as VDFs—which can then be viewed by anyone with the STK Viewer software. You can find the free STK Viewer on CelesTrak here. - TS
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