This coming Saturday at 4:05am Pacific Time will begin a two-hour launch window for an Atlas V (Atlas 5) rocket. This rocket will be– get this– carrying THREE Mars-bound spacecraft, and will be taking off from the south Vandenberg Air Force Base. This is going to be the first-ever inter-planetary mission to launch from the West Coast.
Immediately after launch, the rocket will climb for several seconds and then begin a gradual turn and head south-southeast over the ocean, carrying NASA’s Mars InSight lander and two experimental communications satellites on a seven month trip to Mars.
Our sun is set to rise on Saturday at 5:59am, so this will give us the potential of seeing the “SpaceX Glow” which everyone was so excited about last year! Additionally, if it launches at the beginning of the window (which they always try to do) and it is still dark outside, this should be visible as far away as San Francisco, Mammoth, and San Diego!
Depending on your location and the ambient noise around you, you may hear a distant, muffled rumble or perhaps a sonic boom from the launch some time between 4 and 12 minutes after launchtime.
If you want a close-up view of the launch, you are welcome to congregate west of Lompoc in the vicinity of highway 246 (west Ocean Avenue) and Union Sugar Road.
If you plan to obtain countdown status via an Internet feed, be advised that the feed may lag far behind the actual countdown. During a launch last year, Pete Heins, N6ZE, discovered the countdown feed was delayed by a whopping 75 seconds, so being attentive to the sky is a must, if you plan to watch it outdoors.
Check ClearDarkSky here: http://www.cleardarksky.com/c/IvRgPkCAkey.html to see if the cloud cover will be a problem, as it has been in the past (on that chart, blue is clear, white is cloudy).