Scope Diagram Astrocamera.Net - Astrophotography by Dave Kodama

Rocket Booster Fuel Dump - 11 Nov. 2007

Saturday night seemed to be an especially quiet night since I was able to shoot 18 frames without a single plane passing through any of them. But who would have predicted I'd get a rocket in one frame? reports that this was a fuel dump from a booster used to launch a Defense Support Program satellite (DSP-23) into a geosynchronous orbit. DSP satellites are used to detect missile launches.
The reported schedule was:

  • 10 Nov. - 17:50 PST - Delta IV Heavy launch from Cape Canaveral
  • 11 Nov. - 00:01 PST - Centaur stage orbit circularization burn (3 min.), followed by payload separation
  • 11 Nov. - 00:21 PST - Fuel and oxidizer dump
So what is captured here is the fuel/oxidizer dump. Although it looks like something traveling from east to west (left to right), in reality the fuel dump started at the west (right) side. Over the course of the exposure, the fuel dump location appeared to drift to the east (to the left) as it expanded. Since it was at a geosynchronous orbital height (22,000 miles), actually it was stationary in the sky relative to the ground while the earth's rotation made the stars appear to drift west (right). For this long exposure, the telescope was following the stars westwards.

Photo info
  • Date/Time: 11 Nov. 2007 00:16 PST
  • Location: Vanishing Point Observatory
  • Camera: Planet Town 6x7 Vacuum Astrocamera
  • Film: Kodak Ektachrome E200 (+2 push)
  • Exposure: 1 x 40 min.
  • Lens: Pentax 105mm f/2.8 Medium Format Camera Lens @ f/4
  • Filter: none
  • Mount: Losmandy Titan 50
  • Guiding: SBIG STV / Mini Borg 45ED
  • Image Processing: Photoshop