United Launch Alliance, Atlas V Launch, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, October 31, 2015

The Sky Calls To Us, Photographs of The John F. Kennedy Space Center

Log Book Entry, October 31, 2015

Flight: #AV-060; Launch site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41; Configuration: Atlas V 401. 

Payload: USA-265 - also known as GPS IIF-11, GPS SVN-73 and NAVSTAR 75 - American navigation satellite, part of the Global Positioning System, the eleventh of twelve Block IIF satellites launched; Orbit as of 5 December 2015: perigee of 12,703 mi, apogee 12,733 mi, period 729.58 minutes, and 54.99 degrees of inclination to the equator - used to broadcast the PRN 10 signal, operates in slot 6 of plane E of the GPS constellation; design life of 15 years; mass of 3,590 lb.; commissioned December 9, 2015; currently in service.

Atlas V rockets: Developed by Lockheed Martin; first launched in 2002; now built by United Launch Alliance (Lockheed Martin and Boeing); built in Decatur, Alabama.

It's still warm, actually hot in Cape Canaveral, Florida at the end of October. I stood in moist, ankle high grass with a gaggle of media - television, daily, monthly... still and motion photographers and reporters. Everyone was sweating to some degree and mosquitoes were finding their way to exposed skin. Everyone, but me, appeared to be a regular attendee of launches at the space center and all knew each other. Long lenses lined up and pointed toward the rocket in the distance. Air Force personnel gathered in groups and talked of halloween evening plans. A photographer next to me showed me how to dial in to a  live countdown on my cell phone so I could be ready to photograph at launch time and hear any holds or issues.

While we waited and listened to the countdown, the photographers around me traded stories of launches past and quips on their variety of remote setups that they were allowed to put close to the launch pad. They all had their own rigged systems, developed to ensure their cameras would record the launch close-ups that were so crucial to their careers.

Suddenly, the countdown was at a minute and then even more suddenly the ground began to shudder and the launch began. The rocket disappeared from view so much faster than I expected - even though I didn't exactly know what to expect. I had only seen launches from a great distance or on television when I was growing up in Florida. It seemed as if it was just seconds from the time the ground under my feet and the air in my lungs began to shudder and when there was left only a puff of a small cloud in the clear mid-day sky. 

Memphis Barbree