Tagged: Florida

Coast to Coast: Ares I-X Launches, Weather or Not

Click Here to watch the Ares I-X launch. You need Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection.

The weather was once again a factor as NASA tried to launch the Ares I-X. Because this is a test flight, NASA was concerned about a phenomenon that can cause clouds to reflect radio signals to and from the craft. Not only might they lose valuable data, but a self-destruct message might be lost too, which would be a bad day in my neighborhood should Ares be headed in my direction.

With 30 minutes left in today’s launch window, the weather people found a gap in the clouds long enough for Ares to launch. Click here to read CNN’s report on the launch. The video on that page is a NASA compilation, including a camera mounted on the craft’s fuselage.

The above video is shot from my driveway, looking northeast towards Kennedy Space Center and Pad 39-B. You’ll note that the rocket sound doesn’t reach us until nearly a minute after launch; because sounds travels at about one mile every five seconds, that tells you I’m about 12 miles away from 39-B. But less than two minutes into the recording, it gets pretty loud. The house windows were rattling; it reminded me of a minor earthquake back in California.

My “A” camcorder is out for repair, so I had to use an older one with less quality. I lost track of the rocket right after launch because the view finder isn’t all that great. But you get the idea.

Coast to Coast: Three of a Kind

Ares 1-X on Pad 39-B awaiting launch tomorrow morning. STS-129 is on Pad 39-A in the background. The Delta and Atlas rocket pads are in the distance. Photo courtesy NASA.


I wrote on Thursday about the historical significance of two different spacecraft on the Shuttle launch pads.

I suspected NASA would have someone take a photo showing both craft, and sure enough it showed up online today.

Ares 1-X is supposed to launch tomorrow (Tuesday) at 8 AM EDT with a four-hour launch window, but there’s only a 40% chance of acceptable weather.

I hope to go out and videotape it, but I’ve been sick with a mild case of the flu since Saturday. If they launch, and if I film it, I’ll post it here as I’ve posted previous launches since arriving in Florida.

Coast to Coast: Present and Future, Side By Side

STS-129 with Atlantis on Pad 39-A

The Ares 1-X rocket on Pad 39-B.


For the first and quite probably the last time, two different spacecraft currently sit on launch pads at Kennedy Space Center.

Pad 39-A currently hosts STS-129, scheduled for launch on November 16.

Pad 39-B has the Ares 1-X test rocket, scheduled for launch on October 27.

Ares is the next-generation vehicle planned to replace the Space Shuttle, which is scheduled for retirement by the end of 2010. It’s a return to the Apollo-era technology, a capsule atop a rocket.

Pads 39-A and 39-B were once identical, but 39-B was partially deconstructed to accommodate the Ares test flight. After 1-X launches, the rest of the structure will be demolished and a new gantry will be built.

You’ll notice that the lightning rod at 39-A is atop the gantry, while over at 39-B it’s been removed and three new towers have been built nearby to draw away lightning from the vehicle.

I shot these photos today from an observation tower halfway between the two sites, less than three miles away. The Kennedy Space Center bus tour takes you to the tower, where you get a magnificent view of all the significant structures on base.

Just to the east of the observation site is the intersection where the road splits to go to Pads A and B. Below is a photo of the intersection, along with a sign displaying the message, “Ares 1-X Welcome to Pad B.” How friendly.

Choose your departure point — Pad A or Pad B.

Coast to Coast: Familiar Faces

RHP Baron Short

OF Stantrel Smith

RHP Anthony Sullivan


As previously mentioned, out here in Florida they’re starting a new professional winter baseball league, appropriately called the Florida Winter Baseball League.

The local team is the Space Coast Surge, playing in Cocoa Expo Stadium, which was the Houston Astros’ spring training complex from 1964 through 1984.

The Surge players reported Sunday, and the next day they met for the first time. I was asked to do their head shots which you can see by clicking here.

Five former Angels minor leaguers have been signed by the league. All five played for Tom Kotchman’s Orem Owlz at one time.

Three are here with the Surge — Stantrel Smith, Baron Short and Anthony Sullivan.

The other two, Trevor Pippin and Tyler Johnson, are in Miami with the Diamantes.

A league official said to me yesterday, “So do you like all the Angels we sent you?”

I asked him to send Pip and T.J. to Cocoa too, but he said they have to spread the wealth. Oh well.

Anyway, the three seemed happy to see each other again, familiar faces in unfamiliar territory, and to have me around as a sort of Jiminy Cricket who already knows the area.

Baseball has an amazing ability to create families …

Coast to Coast: Home Plate


Now I officially live here.

My Florida license plate arrived Thursday.

Only here it’s not called a plate, it’s called a “tag.”

And, unlike California, you get only one.

The front can be whatever you want, just so long as it’s not another license plate, er, tag.

Anyway, I removed my old California plates and attached the Florida tag.

ATKSC stands for, “At Kennedy Space Center.” Everyone here knows what KSC is, but back in California they thought I was referring to fast-food chicken.

I kept the Anaheim Angels license plate frame. I don’t care what Arte Moreno says, the Angels are in Anaheim and that’s the way it’s going to remain on my car.

Most baseball fans here are transplants from New England. I encounter a lot of Yankees fans, Red Sox fans and Mets fans. I’ve yet to see another Angels cap or T-shirt.

When I moved here in June, I was out on the Jetty Park pier at Port Canaveral when someone wearing a Red Sox cap came up to me, pointed to the logo, and yelled, “This is the real deal, baby!” Then walked off.

I wonder where he’s sulking today.

Coast to Coast: Stephen Strasburg’s Debut

One advantage of having the organization with the worst winning percentage in your backyard is you get to see top prospects, thanks to the team drafting first.

And so it was that Stephen Strasburg came to the Space Coast on Monday to make his professional pitching debut in the fall instructional league for the Nationals against the Tigers.

This was probably the most highly attended game in instructional league history. One paper guessed it was fifty patrons, but the truth is so many Nationals staff, media, fans, and rubber-neckers were about you really couldn’t tell who was a “fan” and who wasn’t. There was no admission fee, no tickets required, so anyone could walk in.

ESPN covered the event live, with a stationary camera high in the press box shooting through the net. Boring.

I was behind home plate with my camcorder, shooting through the net, for my other site SpaceCoastBaseball.com. Unlike ESPN or other media in attendance, I went down to the bullpen to film Strasburg’s warmup and got the only footage that showed you the batter’s perspective.

Click Here to watch the Strasburg video. You need Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection to watch.

It’s amazing what one hot prospect can do for a web site’s hit count. The number of unique visitors increased ten-fold yesterday over the number of usual SpaceCoastBaseball.com visitors. The site is new, so not many people know about it, but events like this help spread the word.

There’s also a sense of deja vu covering the Nationals. It reminds me of what the Angels went through in the late 1990s, when Baseball America ranked us the worst organization in baseball. After the Gulf Coast League (Rookie-A) Nationals won the pennant on September 3, I told local staff that I knew what it felt like to have everyone treat you like you were inept. Better times are ahead, and the pennant is a sign of that. In fact, a big championship pennant now flies alongside Stadium Parkway outside the minor league complex office.

Strasburg’s debut was a lot of hype, of course, for a meaningless instructional league game. But it gave the Nats’ staff another little ray of hope for the future.

Coast to Coast: A Surge in Space Coast Baseball

You probably know that baseball is played during the winter in Latin and South America. Fall and winter leagues have been tried over the years in Hawaii, California and Maryland, but none lasted long because Major League Baseball wouldn’t provide funding.

No problem, say the people with the Florida Winter Baseball League.

The FWBL will begin play October 30 in four Florida cities. Each team will play a 60-game schedule.

I recorded an interview today with Sean Boudreaux, general manager of the Space Coast Surge, which will play out of historic Cocoa Expo Stadium. Click Here to watch the video interview. You need Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection to watch.

Most of the players will probably be from the independent leagues, although a number of major league organizations have said they’ll consider sending players from their lower minor leagues. Apparently the Angels are not one of those teams, although I wouldn’t be surprised if former Angels minor leaguers from Florida who were released surface in the league.

For history buffs, Cocoa Expo Stadium was the spring training home for the Houston Astros until the early 1980s, then the Marlins in 1993 in their inaugural year.

Coast to Coast: Pull Up a Chair

The Brevard County Manatees are the Milwaukee Brewers’ affiliate in the Florida State League, the equivalent of the Angels’ Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in the California League.

The Manatees have no radio contract. They’ve already clinched a playoff appearance next week, a best-of-three series against the Tampa Yankees. I offered to webcast the games for free. The Manatees said yes.

By coincidence, the regular season concludes this weekend with the Yankees in town for three games against the Manatees. We’re going to use the series as a “playoff preview.”

Most minor league teams have to pay to put their broadcasts on the radio, which is why several broadcast only on the Internet or have no broadcast at all.

Our project is definitely on the cheap. I bought a gaming headset last week for about $40 at the local Best Buy. It plugs into my laptop computer, which will connect to MLB Advanced Media via the Internet. We’ve already done a couple games no one knew about to test the technology.

Believe me, it won’t be Vin Scully.

It’s just a way to get the games online so the players’ parents can listen around the world. Hopefully the locals here in the Space Coast will listen too.

And being an Angels fan, how could I possibly pass up an opportunity to beat the Yankees?

UPDATE September 4, 2009 3:15 PM PDT — My webcast debut has to wait for another day, as we’re rained out. Makeup twinbill tomorrow at 2:00 PM PDT.

Coast to Coast: Midnight Sunrise

Midnight sunrise: STS-128 lifts off from Pad 39A at 11:59 PM EDT.


Click Here to watch the video of the STS-128 launch. Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection required.

When we moved to Florida in June, at the top of my guilty pleasure list was filming a Shuttle night launch. I saw one about twelve years ago, and it was the most incredible event I’ve ever witnessed.

What you see on TV doesn’t do it justice. The colors wash out, but you see it up close from NASA’s perspective, not from the public’s perspective.

Last night my wife and I drove north to Titusville so we could watch the STS-128 launch from Kennedy Point Park. The view is directly across the Indian River about ten miles to the west of Pad 39A.

I wrote on Tuesday that the launch scheduled for that night was scrubbed due to rain. Click Here to watch video of the lightning storm that scrubbed the launch.

We had lightning last night, but fortunately it was in the direction opposite from where Discovery was going to fly, so although it looked dangerous it had no impact on the flight.

Last night’s video at the above link shows you the launch from the public’s perspective. When the engines ignite, it looks like a sun suddenly burst into existence on the horizon. The flame colors wash out on my camcorder too; you have to see it in person with your own eyes to truly appreciate it.

The video shows you the crowd around the park, the view across the river, some of the iconic buildings and facilities you’ve seen on TV and, yes, more lightning strikes (edited for time).

What I remember about both night launches is that as the Shuttle goes down range, eventually it becomes one star on the horizon against all the other stars — only this star has people on it.

And for those who might be wondering … No, that’s not my voice in the background with the running commentary. Two amateur astronomers happened to be standing nearby.

Coast to Coast: Rain Check

Lightning storms around the launch pad kept STS-128 from launching during the night.


Click Here to watch the video of the lightning storms around the launch pad. Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection required.

STS-128 was supposed to launch at 1:36 AM EDT last night, a rare opportunity to see a spectactular night launch. My wife and I headed out to Titusville to watch from Kennedy Point Park, on the Indian River across from Kennedy Space Center. The launch pad is roughly ten miles to the east.

Florida weather being what it is, no launch is guaranteed, and lightning storms forced a postponement until tomorrow night at 1:10 AM EDT. Click Here to read NASA’s weather criteria that restrict launch conditions.

The video at the above link shows you the view from the park across the river. You’ll see various lightning strikes in the vicinity. Enormous floodlights illuminate the pad at night. A deluge over the pad diffused the light to create an amazing halo effect around the Shuttle. At the end of the clip, you’ll hear the chatter on NASA’s weather circuit from a plane circling above, monitored by someone with a portable scanner.