Tomorrow evening (Sat 20th Dec), it will be possible to watch a satellite launch live, as a launch of the massive Ariane 5 rocket will be taking place.
Alas, it is only via the internet from South America – as I doubt a launch in London would get past the Health & Safety regulations.
Fortunately though, the launch is also at a more tolerable time – starting at 9:50pm (they are often a lot later in the night), so something to watch on your computer if the TV is proving uninspiring.
Live Streaming Link (needs Real Player or Windows Media)
This will be the 42nd Ariane 5 launch, and will launch two communications satellites, primarily intended for direct TV broadcast services and data networks: HOT BIRD 9 and W2M, both for Eutelsat.
The launcher will be carrying a total payload of 9,220 kg, including 8,340 kg for the two satellites, which will be released separately into their targeted orbits.
Incidentally, you can actually write to Arianespace and get tickets to watch the launch live in person. Alas, the flights to French Guiana are unusually expensive. I suspect that the airlines milk the route for all its worth as the bulk of the customers flying there are going to be VIPs who don’t really care about the cost.
You can also naturally watch launches at NASA’s facility in Florida – and there are also periodic launches on the other side of the USA, out of Vandenberg Air Force Base. Another spot to watch a live launch is Baikonur in Kazakhstan – which is the former USSR launch site. Today it is mainly commercial launches, with the occasional launch of a Glonass satellite to finish off Russia’s version of the USA’s GPS platform.
There were plans to let tourists watch the Chinese rocket launches, and indeed the local government invested in a large tourist park near the launch site. Alas for them, the army decided it didn’t like civilians watching, and shut the whole thing down.
On a slightly related subject – just a reminder of my 10 Downing St petition.
When man first landed on the moon, Britain’s Union Jack/Flag was also taken up to the moon and then brought back to earth, and now resides inside 10 Downing St. I think it should be put on public display as an inspiration to our future scientists.
If you think that would be a good idea – please sign the petition by Jan 3rd 2009. You never know, it might attract attention of the person who can say “Yes!”.
(Note: Image is not necessarily to scale)