Launch of STS 123

Coverage started 2008 March 8

Updated 2008 March 8

STS 123 (Endeavour) is currently scheduled to launch from the Kennedy Space Center, Launch Complex 39A, to the International Space Station (ISS) at 02:28:12.000 Eastern Daylight Time (06:28:12.000 UTC) on 2008 March 11. To help illustrate this event, I created an AGI Viewer file for the ascent portion of the launch trajectory—from liftoff to main engine cutoff (MECO)—using data obtained from NASA.

Download STS 123 Launch Scenario

As currently scheduled, this launch is now set to go in the wee hours of the morning on the US East Coast, so if the weather cooperates and you don't mind getting up really early, this could be a spectacular launch to watch. I hope to be out there watching with you for this one, since I will be visiting our corporate headquarters in Exton, Pennsylvania, but I would still be most interested to hear reports of successful sightings of this launch. 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 AGI Viewer file, some selected screen shots are included below, along with a description of the information provided therein.

The scenario starts at 02:27:42.000 EDT, 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+2:05.44, and ends at MECO at T+8:34.20 (that's all the data we were able to get for this launch).

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Screen shot from AGI Viewer file of STS 123 launch (T-0)

There are four pre-defined views with closeups of the space shuttle throughout the ascent phase: one from the side, one from the front, one from the back, and a new view from the RocketCam (see below). 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 AGI Viewer file. Information is contained in that file for how to use it.

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Screen shot from AGI Viewer file of STS 123 launch (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.

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Screen shot from AGI Viewer file of STS 123 launch (T+4)

Here's the new view I added from the RocketCam on the External Tank. The shot below shows the RocketCam view looking down at Launch Complexes 39A and 39B, 30 seconds after liftoff.

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Screen shot from AGI Viewer file of STS 123 launch (RocketCam on External Tank)

Of course, the AGI Viewer file gives you the ability to change viewpoints to more closely examine various aspects of a given event, such as SRB separation. The three images below show views from the front and rear of the orbiter, and from the RocketCam, just after SRB separation, using the front and rear pre- defined viewpoints.

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Screen shot from AGI Viewer file of STS 123 launch (SRB separation, front view)

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Screen shot from AGI Viewer file of STS 123 launch (SRB separation, rear view)

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Screen shot from AGI Viewer file of STS 123 launch (SRB separation, RocketCam view)

There are also pre-defined viewpoints from 23 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 123 and the ISS show points at 30-sec intervals (e.g., at 02:36:12 EDT) 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 123 is above the local horizon.

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Screen shot from AGI Viewer file of STS 123 launch (Space view, East Coast)

There are pre-defined views included from the following cities:

CityRise TimeSet TimeMax
Albany, New York02:34:17 EDT02:36:46 EDT4.9 deg   
Atlanta, Georgia 02:29:59 EDT02:35:47 EDT 5.4 deg   
Atlantic City, New Jersey 02:32:11 EDT02:36:46 EDT 9.3 deg   
Baltimore, Maryland 02:31:51 EDT02:36:46 EDT 6.4 deg   
Boston, Massachussetts 02:34:26 EDT02:36:46 EDT 7.3 deg   
Greensboro, North Carolina 02:30:21 EDT02:36:46 EDT 8.2 deg   
Halifax, Novia Scotia 03:36:14 ADT03:36:46 ADT 2.3 deg   
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 02:32:25 EDT02:36:46 EDT 4.8 deg   
Hartford, Connecticut 02:33:51 EDT02:36:46 EDT 7.2 deg   
Jacksonville, Florida 02:28:46 EDT02:36:05 EDT18.7 deg   
Miami, Florida 02:29:03 EDT02:35:24 EDT 9.3 deg   
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina 02:29:43 EDT02:36:46 EDT17.7 deg   
New York, New York 02:33:01 EDT02:36:46 EDT 7.4 deg   
Norfolk, Virginia 02:30:49 EDT02:36:46 EDT12.3 deg   
Orlando, Florida 02:28:25 EDT02:35:49 EDT21.6 deg   
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 02:32:24 EDT02:36:46 EDT 7.1 deg   
Portland, Maine 02:35:10 EDT02:36:46 EDT 5.1 deg   
Portsmouth, New Hampshire 02:34:50 EDT02:36:46 EDT 6.0 deg   
Roanoke, Virginia 02:30:46 EDT02:36:46 EDT 6.0 deg   
Savannah, Georgia 02:29:14 EDT02:36:27 EDT15.9 deg   
Spartanburg, South Carolina 02:30:03 EDT02:36:34 EDT 7.3 deg   
Washington DC 02:31:37 EDT02:36:46 EDT 6.6 deg   
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania 02:33:09 EDT02:36:46 EDT 4.5 deg   
Note: MECO is at 02:36:46.20 EDT.

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.

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Screen shot from AGI Viewer file of STS 123 launch (View from Orlando, Florida)

I hope you find this information both informative and helpful in sighting the launch of STS 123. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

For more information on the STS 123 mission, see:

Note: AGI Viewer is a free product which allows anyone with a Windows computer to view an STK (Satellite 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 AGI Viewer files—also known as VDFs—which can then be viewed by anyone with the AGI Viewer software. You can find the free AGI Viewer on the AGI web site at (download here if you are experiencing problems with the AGI site). - TS

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