Space Shuttle scheduled to land near LA this evening, big sonic boom expected

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Update, 5:55pm PDT: Heard just now on Mission Control audio: "Home! (...) Welcome home Discovery, after a successful mission, stepping up science to a new level on the International Space Station." A beautiful touchdown at 5:53pm PDT, and damn tootin' we heard (and felt) the twin booms here in LA.

Southern California BB readers, here's your evening forecast: breezy with a chance of BEWMMMM! Expect a large sonic boom between 530-555pm PDT this evening if you're in one of the colored areas in the map embedded at left (click to see large size).

That's when the Space Shuttle Discovery is scheduled to land at Edwards Air Force Base out in Mojave, instead of KSC in Florida (due to sketchy weather back east). Snip from LA Times item:

The so-called "deorbit burn" is scheduled to begin at 4:47 p.m. PDT for a 5:53 p.m. landing at Edwards in the Mojave Desert north of Los Angeles, according to details published on NASA's website. The second opportunity for leaving orbit will come at 6:23 p.m., ending with a landing at 7:28 p.m.
The mission to deliver supplies and equipment to the International Space Station lasted 2 weeks and spanned 5.7 million miles. More: LA Times, NASA "Landing Blog."

Wooo! The deorbit burn is beginning as I type this blog post. Snip:

Discovery's orbital maneuvering system engines are firing now. This two-minute, 35-second deorbit burn will slow the orbiter's forward speed by about 267 feet per second, enough to begin its descent through the atmosphere.

Update: Sonic boom + unsuspecting dog = the video below (via @caseymckinnon via @georgeruiz).

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  1. Awesome, its landing vector is going right over my home. I haven’t had free time to see a space shuttle fly overhead for landing since I was in fourth grade and it flew over the school during recess! :)

  2. It was too cloudy here in Covina to catch a glimpse of it, but the boom was pretty impressive. It startled my family while we watched from the front yard. :)

  3. we thought something was exploding in our house in Mar Vista! Glad this was posted. I thought it sounded like a sonic boom but couldn’t figure out what could be making.

  4. I live by LAX and I just heard it.

    I could feel it in my chest and it set off all the car alarms on my block.

    Pretty exciting

  5. #4 posted by Xeni Jardin:

    It’s 6:02PM here…I heard the boom when it landed at Edwards last time. If my math is right I should be hearing it any minute now here in Santa Barbara…

    1. Wow this is neat! Looking at the BB comment timestamps, and Twitter timestamps from friends I follow who live in LA, I can see that folks in one area along the trajectory heard/felt it at X minute, and then folks further up the line at Y minute, and those still closer to Mojave at Z minute…. that’s really cool! Literally one minute by one minute by one minute. Cosmic.

  6. I lived in LA for five years, and in that time the shuttle rattled windows better than any earthquake.

    Being a space nerd, I cheered every time.

  7. Wow…way to plan this right on 9/11. My IM was blowing up with people asking me if we were getting bombed.

  8. Eagle rock, Los Angeles, felt a boom thought it was an Earthquake!, everybody from my neighborhood went outside wondering what it was

  9. Thanks for posting this Xeni, I wouldn’t have known about it without you and probably wouldn’t have heard the booms since I’d have been deep in the middle of the house. That totally made my day, even if I didn’t see it.

    Welcome home Discovery!

  10. Correction: “Home! After 58 days in space… Welcome home Discovery

    Just FYI the mission duration was actually 13 days, 20 hours, 53 minutes, 45 seconds.

    The ’58 days’ things refers to the following:

    “Friday was the 58th day in space for their crewmate Tim Kopra, who launched on shuttle mission STS-127 in July and spent two months on the International Space Station as an Expedition 20 crew member.”

  11. I was visiting my parents in Titusville, across the Indian River from the space center, when a shuttle landed.

    We’d heard on the radio that there’d be a sonic boom. My mother, uncle, and I walked down to the beach at the end of the road to watch and listen.

    Now, my uncle is an awesomely stubborn know-it-all. He was sure, absolutely sure, that we’d see and hear nothing.

    While were chatting the air was shattered by two enormous BOOOM!!!!!s. Dogs barked, and hundreds of birds took to the air.

    My uncle was speechless for about ten seconds. “Aha!” he declared, “The fired off a cannon to scare the birds away from the shuttle’s flight path.”

  12. When I saw that the shuttle was going to be passing over hear, I went out for a walk. Couldn’t see anything thanks to the cloud cover, though even without it, I don’t know if it would have been visible. The boom hit downtown Long Beach at 5:48pm, according to my phone. Made me smile, but no one else that I saw seemed to pay much, if any, attention to it.

  13. My uncle was speechless for about ten seconds. “Aha!” he declared, “The fired off a cannon to scare the birds away from the shuttle’s flight path.”

    That’s silly, but it makes me wonder what a bird strike might actually do to a shuttle.

    Testing after Columbia was lost suggested that at high speeds even a couple pounds of soft foam could literally punch a big, structurally significant hole in the wing’s leading edge, and birds are harder than foam. Hmmm…

  14. I was expecting it, thanks to bb, and I still got startled that someone was trying to break in through my sliding glass balcony door.

  15. That’s silly, but it makes me wonder what a bird strike might actually do to a shuttle.

    Probably very little. The major problem with “birdstrike” (as if it’s the bird’s fault) is the bird getting sucked into the sensitive turbine blades of a jet engine air intake.
    Shuttles have rocket engines which are exit-only and not (or barely?) used on re-entry.

    The tiles on the outside are still vulnerable, but by the time a Shuttle is likely to encounter a bird it has slowed down enough that the heat resistant tiling isn’t necessary any more.

  16. @Airpillo
    The foam didn’t cause damage to the structure, it dislodged some heat tiles, which allowed the heat of reentry to damage the wing structure until the shuttle broke up. A bird could definitely dislodge heat tiles, but by then heat isn’t really an issue. I doubt a bird could cause any significant structural damage I’d say the birds should be more worried than NASA :)

  17. Bird strikes: yes. http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/090115-shuttle-bird-threat.html

    With every launch/landing that passes into history, and very likely last-ever flight of a vehicle with wings into space, I get a bit more scratchy about emptying out my meagre savings and taking a trip to the US to watch one or the other. I would *love* to see a launch, but the risk of taking two weeks off work and spending a couple of K flying across the Atlantic only for launch to be scrubbed for three weeks… and also, I =hate= travel. Haven’t flown since 1997, and not for “pleasure” since ’85.

  18. Ein doppelter Boom.

    or

    Ein doppeltes Bangen.

    or as we would say

    Ein doppelter Knall!

    (I love me some Knall.)

  19. @45 – I actually tried to see the Discovery’s initial planned launch in August, so I know first hand the pain of delays! Ah well, I got to take a nice little tour at least…

  20. Wish I would have known in advance, it scared the shit out of my wife and I — we thought our toddler who was sleeping upstairs had done something awful! And thanks for the image, it shows we probably received some of the most intense boom (being on the coast under the pinkish color).

  21. With every launch/landing that passes into history, and very likely last-ever flight of a vehicle with wings into space, I get a bit more scratchy about emptying out my meagre savings and taking a trip to the US to watch one or the other. I would *love* to see a launch…

    Well, I can’t put a value on your time. Only you can. That said, I can assure you that the shuttle taking off is easily one of the most awesome awe inspiring things I have ever seen in my life. I saw it take off by accident many miles away. It stopped the cars in the city I was in dead as everyone pulled over to watch. TV doesn’t even begin to do it a lick of justice. You don’t get a sense of the scale of the thing. It is as big as a freaking building and it is riding up on a massive flame. Your mind kind of rejects what it is seeing because it is so god damn big.

    I can’t say much in favor of spending time on that area Florida for a week or two, but seeing the actual take off is incredible.

  22. From the County of Los Angeles, Southgate CA. The double boom was hell of shocking. Recognizing it was 9/11/09 I was expecting to view a forming mushroom. I thought 9/11 hit Los Angeles.

  23. Teller, my labrador was put down at the grand old age of 16 (112), about two weeks ago. Had her since she was a pup.

    My condolences.

  24. #34
    “Okay, that’s all great and everything folks, but did you even watch the video?? The dog’s name is nipple!”

    THANK YOU! i just read this whole page trying to figure out if i heard that right!

  25. @Airpillo
    The foam didn’t cause damage to the structure, it dislodged some heat tiles, which allowed the heat of reentry to damage the wing structure until the shuttle broke up. A bird could definitely dislodge heat tiles, but by then heat isn’t really an issue. I doubt a bird could cause any significant structural damage I’d say the birds should be more worried than NASA :)

    Oh, I know, but I’ve seen footage of a simulation that was later run by NASA, firing a piece of foam from an air cannon at the leading edge of a 1:1 model shuttle wing edge.

    Many NASA scientists expected the soft material to bounce off with minor damage. The shocking reality was that the foam literally punched a clean hole in the wing’s leading edge, into the interior cavity behind it. It was a very scary result, the kind of damage that I think would change the handling of the shuttle, an already unwieldy aircraft during glide. This was a simulation of launch conditions, though, so I don’t know what bearing that has on glide velocity strikes.

    Here’s a video, for the curious. The latter half is the full-scale testing:

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