Suzaku launch

There I am, on my way! The launch photos are awesome. But you know what’s even cooler? You can watch the launch in a QuickTime video (about 1.8MB)! The video is really cool — you get to see what it looks like from the ground, the sky, and even a special view from the rocket. Yeah, they mounted a camera up here with me! I call it the “XRS-eye view.”

Goddard Suzaku Team

Part of the Suzaku team in Japan celebrating my successful launch. Some of the people I’ve talked about are in the picture. Juli is on the far right. Scott – remember he made the trip to Japan with me – is kneeling on the left. Kevin is kneeling in the center. Rich Kelley, who is the scientist in charge of the whole project – my Dad, so to speak – is on the far left. And Caroline Kilborne – who was in charge of building me – is standing behind Kevin.

I can’t believe how fast everything happens during launch. When the countdown got to zero, the first stage of the rocket ignited and I was up, up, and away! That only lasted 75 seconds, until the second stage ignited and the first stage separated (you can see that in the video). A few minutes after that, the nose fairing opened up and I came out! I was on the ground and four minutes later I’m out in space, headed into orbit. Incredible.

So everything is going great up here! So good, that some things have happened ahead of schedule! Right after launch I run on battery power, and they’re not supposed to deploy the solar panels for a couple days. But that happened during our second orbit.

A few hours after launch, I learned the new name for our mission. No longer are we Astro-E2 – now we are Suzaku! It’s named after an Asian god which has the form a bird. It is the guardian of the South and a symbol of renewal. It is also red, which is a color for celebration!

And boy has there been a lot of celebration! The team members at the launch were so excited to see me launch and make my first orbit… I hear that there was a lot of cheering and a big press conference. And back at Goddard, over 100 of my friends got together to watch the launch live (though a special webcast) and celebrate over there. Two parties, just for me! You can see a picture below of part of the team in Japan after launch — look at those grins!

It’ll be quiet for the next few days. Mostly the spacecraft people will work to perfect the orbit. And in about a week they’ll extend the “optical bench”. This will put the mirrors at the right distance from me so the x-rays will be focused perfectly. I won’t take my first observation for about another three weeks. Until then, I guess I’ll enjoy the view!