February 24, 2020

Viewing the STS-125 launch and a Servicing Mission 4 Update.

On Monday, May 11th, 2009 at 2:01PM EDT local the Shuttle Atlantis blasted off on a historic mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope(HST) one last time. The day was blistering hot at the Kennedy Space Center(KSC), but the launch went off without a hitch. I’d like to share our notes on the launch viewing experience, as well as give you an update as to what’s happening in orbit.

Our personal blast-off occurred about six hours prior form our house in Hudson, Florida on the other side of the Florida peninsula. The drive time was about two hours, and traffic was light, even through Orlando. Unfortunately, traffic out to the KSC tends to bottle neck as you approach Merritt Island, but this is pretty much unavoidable.

We had previously got our tickets early last fall, and looked forward to a nice, cool evening night launch. However, fans of this spot will recall the slip of this mission due to problems with Hubble last year. Tickets are mission specific, that is, they follow the mission itself. We hung on to our tickets until that far-off day finally arrived. When we first planned on going, we had thought of camping at the nearby KOA at Titusville; now a quick day trip from our new home seemed like the best option. As you’ll recall, we had been to, and reviewed, the KSC experience before. Please note that the ticket also gets you admission to the IMAX and the visitor’s center. Also note that areas beyond the visitor’s center are closed off during the launch window, and of course, the launch itself can be delayed, sometimes by several days (or months!) Happily, Atlantis went off at the very beginning of the first day launch window, and a packed for over night was unnecessary.

However, if you’ve never been to the KSC, I would allot yourself least six hours to see everything and try to come on a non-launch day, as well. Also, a high profile flight like Atlantis may well be (and was) sold out; best to get your tickets well in advance of launch day. Tickets for the next launch go up the day after a successful launch; check the tentative calendar for details.

Viewing from the KSC takes place on the visitor’s center grounds, and you won’t see the Shuttle on the pad from this vantage point. During launch, you will see it once it clears the trees (and you’ll feel the rumble!) after the first few seconds. A big screen viewer and narration by guest astronauts is provided in the hours leading up to the launch, as well as food (and beer!) The overall atmosphere was very festive. No coolers were allowed, but we brought in water through security with no problems. We also packed sunscreen, an umbrella, and a fold up chair, as there is no sunshade or seating in the viewing area.

Can’t get on-site? There are also several vantage points for ideal off-site viewing.

Secret tip; we noticed several people leaving on shuttle buses for closer viewing; apparently, this option must be inquired about, and is more expensive. Information told us this option must be asked about specifically. These tickets for the next launch go up after lift-off and sell out quickly…(the Endeavor flight next month is already sold out!) As for up-close press only viewings, we here at Astroguyz are working on that…

Blast-off Video!

The view was awesome and well worth the trip. Plus, Space Shuttle launches are about to become history, so be sure to catch one of the remaining handful! It also makes a good day trip from Orlando and perhaps a welcome respite from that whole Mouse-thing… at very least, we’d like to attend the final launch, scheduled for possibly September 16th of next year. We also get a pretty decent view from our back yard about +100 plus miles away, minus the rumble… maybe we should setup an Astroguyz beer tent?

Status update: Tuesday has been a busy day of inspections for the crew of STS-125, as they remotely monitored the underside for any launch damage and prepped for Wednesday’s grapple of the HST, around noon EDT. Minor damage to the wing/fuselage interface is currently under analysis. Meanwhile, on the ground Endeavor is now sitting on 72 hour launch standby in its STS-400 rescue mode. Hubble itself has started preparation for inspection, closing the aperture door and getting ready for mating with the Atlantis.

Thursday, the repairs will begin. Instruments to be replaced will be the batteries, gyroscopes and the failed computer unit that bumped that fall’s mission. Astronauts will also install the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, and upgrade the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph. Also a new stainless steel insulation jacket will be installed. Finally, an adapter will be installed for that (hopefully) far off day when Hubble will be grappled by an automated rocket for eventual de-orbit, and then STS-125 will bid farewell for a landing at the KSC on May 22nd at 11:41AM EDT. This will all occur over five space walks in five days. A lot of work! Stay tuned to this space and NASA TV as the orbital drama unfolds!


  1. [...] Bean remarked on NPR Sci-Fri that when you watch missions like the recent repair of the Hubble on STS-125, its hard to imagine that there was a time that we barely knew how to set foot out side the [...]

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by David Dickinson. David Dickinson said: http://bit.ly/dgomnt May 11th, 2009: STS-125 launched for the final Hubble servicing mission. (Hey, my calendar says 2000?) [...]

  3. [...] to Atlantis. The two launches that we had the privilege to witness up close where both Atlantis; STS-125 and the final repair mission to the Hubble from the visitor center, and STS-132 from the press site [...]

  4. [...] mission to Mars. This was our 5th launch “up close,” and our scorecard now includes the launches of STS-125, STS-132, SpaceX’s CRS-2 mission, and the Mars Science Laboratory in 2011. MAVEN was a flawless [...]

Speak Your Mind