|STS 131 about to disappear behind its exhaust plume.|
|Re-emergence 2 minutes later.|
In the predawn darkness, at 6:20 am, the engine exhaust was incredibly bright, its 5 km distance notwithstanding. No photograph can convey the intensity of this light, which illuminates the entire area. The vehicle climbed away with surprising rapidity, leaving a dark trail of smoke. Suddenly, three minutes after lift-off, the ascending shuttle popped into sunlight, and the exhaust changed colours from grey to orange to yellow then white and the vehicle climbed away to the north of the KSC viewing site.
Eventually the shuttle disappeared from sight. I have no recollection of seeing the Solid Rocket Booster separation, and being out of earshot of the NASA commentary which was only audible to those standing within a couple of metres of the tannoy system, I had no way to know just when to look for it.
On examination of my photographs I think the Solid Rocket Booster separation probably happened while the ascending vehicle was obscured by its own exhaust plume, or else when too far downrange for us to see this event.
Animation of Launch
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Text, images and audio Copyright to Andrew Rennnie, 2010