SpaceX Falcon Heavy STP-2 Launch: Part 2

Day 1 of my NASA social experience was big fun, informative…and hot! {For the record, according to the locals, it was an unusually hot day that day.} If you missed the details of my day, click here to catch up on Part 1.

And once you are ready…read on for NASA social STP-2, Part 2!

Day 2 – Tours and Launch Day

I made every effort to get a full night’s rest because I knew that this day was going to be a full one. That being said, I still ended up waking early due to my excitement. I took time to eat breakfast, to pack a lunch, and to make sure that all my chargers were fully charged and ready to go. I was not going to miss any good shots or videos!

We checked in and then the police doggie did his security sweep of our belongings. Once he was done, we boarded the bus. We were met by a different bus driver/tour guide this time, and his name was Tommy:

Tommy was so friendly and so knowledgeable about everything related to the space program!
Photo credit: Dee Dean

Tommy was a walking wealth of knowledge! He gave us THE best bus tour, sharing facts about Kennedy Space Center buildings and structures, as well as personal stories about the astronauts from Mercury to Apollo to the space shuttle. He was so warm and genial, and we all just loved him.

Our first stop was the historic Launch Complex 39. We drove by the Vehicle Assembly Building (the largest one-story building in the world), and on to Pad 39B. {Fun fact: The last Shuttle launch from pad 39B was the nighttime launch of Discovery on December 9, 2006.} I was a bit overwhelmed that I was actually standing on this historic launch pad! It was a little hard to get a perspective of how massive the platform was until The Pad Operations Manager began to explain where the spacecraft would sit and how tall it was.

Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center. Photo credit: Dee Dean

Once we toured and took photos, Tommy was able to take us around the back of Pad 39B to the flame trench. This is where all the flames were directed at liftoff. Take a listen as Tommy explains to Jen and I how the flames were divided and directed outward:

Incidentally, we could see Pad 39A very well from where we were. 39A is where SpaceX has contracted with Nasa for use of this launchpad for the next 20 years. As we looked out to the pad, we could see the Falcon Heavy in position for launch. Better yet…we were on our way over there to see it up close, woohoo!

The excitement on the bus was palpable as we got closer and closer. You could basically here a lot of shutters clicking on each side of the bus aisle as we neared Pad 39A. Tommy got us right there, behind the fence, and we disembarked. I think we spent at least 30 minutes getting photos and video of the actual SpaceX Falcon Heavy! We were all pretty pumped, and we were pretty chatty with excitement about what we had just seen up close.

The SpaceX Falcon Heavy sitting pretty on the launchpad! Photo credit: Dee Dean

After this first part of our wonderful day, we were on our way to lunch. It was a really refreshing break to eat at the employee café. Some of us sat in groups, and others took time to sit alone. It was cool because I got to see how different people recharge (myself included) and regroup. I tapped in and out of conversations, trying to learn more about my squad but also taking a moment for me.

Once we were done refueling, we were back on the bus to see more of KSC!

The Afternoon

Tommy took us around to see the VAB with its doors open to reveal the SLS mobile launcher inside, and one of the Mobile Launcher Platforms:

The VAB with doors open to reveal the SLS mobile launcher. Photo credit: Dee Dean
The Mobile Launcher Platform. Photo credit: Dee Dean

We then made a stop to visit the DoD Human Space Flight Support team. This team is responsible for quickly and safely rescuing astronauts in the unlikely event of an emergency during ascent, free flight or landing. It was a honor to hear from them and speak to some of the team members.

Our last stop was at the Manned Spacecraft Operations Building. This is where the astronauts would walk out of the door in their flight suits, to be picked up by transport van and driven over to Launch Complex 39A:

We visited to door that the astronauts walked thru to be transported to the Launch site.
Photo credit: Dee Dean (l), NASA public domain(r)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was about 4p and time to take our dinner break. We hopped aboard the bus a little tired, but a lot excited for the BIG event of the day: the launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy!

11:30 Night Launch…Maybe??

We were scheduled for check-in at 9:15 PM, and so I made sure that I ate a robust dinner (my bedtime usually comes early, so I had to plan for a long night lol). As we got close to 8:30, I noticed a flurry of messages in our FB group. The countdown clock at the site had stopped. Then it went dark.

What was happening??

Our Nasa host texted us and told us to hold off on the 9:15 arrival. We checked Twitter with purpose to see what SpaceX was saying. NObody wanted to get this far, have come from all over the country, to see the mission scrubbed. I said a prayer and waited.

Then one of our team mates messaged us with the words that we were hoping for: “mission is back on for 2:30 AM launch.”

Yes!! Okay, we had a new and definite launch time, which I was most grateful for. But 2:30AM?? Yikes. I needed to chill and take a nap. So I set my alarm on my phone and tried to get a little shut-eye. A little.

11:45 PM came soon enough, and I was on my way to check-in. We were all a blend of a bit exhausted and wildly excited that we were on our way to a launch. We boarded the bus, and we took off.

Once we arrived, many of the group who needed to set up cameras for video and photos disembarked in the dark (with heavy mosquito protection sprayed on) and set up camp. The rest of us who didn’t need to set up and didn’t want to even see a mosquito opted for staying on the bus. We laughed and  fabulized with glitter “stardust” to mark the moment.

It was soon time to leave to comfort of the bus and get ready for launch. I made sure to take note of what I was hearing over the speaker system. It was SUPER cool to hear the announcers talking about the details of the event and the Falcon Heavy as we got closer to the time.

Finally, our moment was here…WOW!! Listen and watch as the announcer counts down the final 15 seconds to launch:

Not only did we witness a beautiful night launch, but we also were able to see to boosters re-fire and return to earth, not to far from where we were located. They both landed upright, just as they were designed to do, and we heard a double sonic boom as they touched down onto the mobile platforms.

We headed bus to the bus close to 3AM, and as tired as I was, I couldn’t help but feel like it was all worth it: the flight in, the heat, the late night. All worth it. I had just seen my very first launch in person, and I thanked God for the opportunity. And I had seen it with a wonderful company of people. Day, month,…..year made.

Thank you so much for the invitation NASA Social! I am very grateful for the chance to see history made and to indulge my inner space enthusiast. And I loved meeting everyone who attended this event. I’m still processing this whole experience, and I already know that I want to visit KSC again, real soon.

Have you ever attended a NASA social event? Please tell me about your experience  – I’d love to hear about it! And if you haven’t, click here about how you can apply for one: https://www.nasa.gov/connect/social/index.html

Thanks for stopping by and sharing in my joy. Feel free to ask me any questions – I am more than happy to share!

3 Replies to “SpaceX Falcon Heavy STP-2 Launch: Part 2”

  1. […] If you enjoyed reading this, please share it with someone who might be interested in a NASA social event, thanks 🙂  Read on here for Part 2 soon….Launch Day! […]

  2. That was so cool to watch!!! What an experience that must have been. 😍

    1. It was a blast, literally and figuratively!

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