Space, the Final Frontier

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    Success! This photo quickens my pulse.

    Gene Nowaczyk’s rocket captured video during its record-setting launch at BALLS in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada. This is a frame grab from apogee (posted with permission). The readings are in meters, so this sensor indicated an altitude of ~ 100K ft. The atmosphere ends at 55K ft at this latitude. On-board avionics indicate that the rocket broke Mach 3.5

    This launch was a highlight of the weekend, as celebrated yesterday on the cover of the New York Times.

    The nosecone is now cooling from a peak of 425° during the ascent. The thermal expansion and contraction of the electronic leads led to a loss of power soon after apogee. But the rocket was recovered in good shape, with just the paint burned off the nose cone.


    jzawodn, Mrsuperpants, paranoidroid, and 16 other people added this photo to their favorites.

    View 11 more comments

    1. Todd Huffman 103 months ago | reply

      Why does NASA get all the cool toys??? Not that an aircraft carrier would do much good in the middle of the desert, but still...

      Maybe you could borrow this boat, it seems to run Ok in the desert.

    2. benjiman 103 months ago | reply

      For more mind blowing orbital shots, take a look at these launch shots....

      I need to book my trip on a Virgin Galactic flight soon!

    3. j_silla 103 months ago | reply

      tie me to it :)

    4. CherokeeJ 101 months ago | reply

      ix_silver says:
      tie me to it :)

      You'd die. At 7 G's, you feel a lot of pain. At 9 G's, you pass out. At 13 G's, you die. At the 30+ G's that this flight pulled, your body turns inside out, and your head comes out through your butt. Not pretty.

      Read more about Gene's little project at

    5. Chris Maytag 94 months ago | reply

      Not to be too nitpicky, because this is seriously cool, but the atmosphere doesn't "end" at just keeps getting thinner and thinner, faster and faster.

      In fact, the Sun's "atmosphere" (as opposed to the photosphere mor chromosphere mostly human/arbitrary boundaries) extends pretty much halfway to the nearest star. Likewise, the Earth's atmosphere extends a great distance, enough so that satellites much, much higher than 55k have to consider the (admittedly small) effect ofair resistance when dealing wth orbital calculations.

    6. BlackBirdCD 93 months ago | reply

      Oh wow. I was at Balls 15, but this is the first time I've seen this picture. Just astounding!

    7. sbove 92 months ago | reply

      Great Balls...what a view...

      A question:

      What is the minimum altitude at which one can see black "space" clearly differentiated from blue atmosphere? I would have thought it to be much higher than only 100k feet...but this picture clearly shows otherwise...

      As for where the atmosphere's another interesting perspective on the difference between aeronautics and astronomics:

      "There is no clear boundary between Earth's atmosphere and space as the density of the atmosphere gradually decreases as the altitude increases. Nevertheless, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale has established the Kármán line at an altitude of 100 km (62 miles) as a working definition for the boundary between aeronautics and astronautics. This is used because above an altitude of roughly 100 km, as Theodore von Kármán calculated, a vehicle would have to travel faster than orbital velocity in order to derive sufficient aerodynamic lift from the atmosphere to support itself. The United States designates people who travel above an altitude of 80 km (50 statute miles) as astronauts. During re-entry, roughly 120 km (75 miles) marks the boundary where atmospheric drag becomes noticeable, depending on the ballistic coefficient of the vehicle."

      PS: my new goal -- to one day own a personal-travel vehicle with an advertised "ballistic coefficient" ;-)

    8. cosmosjon 92 months ago | reply

      This ain't your father's Estes Rocket!

      INCREDIBLE shot. (Haven't seen any Flat Earth Society members commenting.... they're strangely silent here!) ;-)

    9. kite man 89 months ago | reply

      Wow! That'e sure getting up there. I am not a model rocket person as all of my aerial photos are done with kites. I like the sharp aerial photos captured by kites but these high altitude shots are amazing as well.

      You may also enjoy some of the KAP flickr sites wich show photos taken from kites. You may even want to check out one of my other groups called Giant Kites as it also contains some aerial shots of giant kites.

      Thanks for posting this shot on our Unmannes Aerial Photos photo gallery.

      Thanks again,


    10. Craig Taylor - Orkney 89 months ago | reply

      I also take aerial photos with my camera attached to kites and found this photograph amazing.

      Regards from The Orkney Islands,


    11. madrigar 82 months ago | reply


      re: Cherokee - I don't feel pain at 7 G's... I used to do rapid onset (15 seconds at 5 G's, then 15 seconds at 9 G's, then back to 5) in centrifuges. My resting G tolerance was just under 5 G's and it is common to do 9 G's in tests using proper breathing techique and using a G suit.

    12. AndyM_ 82 months ago | reply

      My dad used to throw me higher than that when I was a kid.

    13. PLC.Doctor 82 months ago | reply

      I think the correct altitude for this photo is 104,364 feet. The display is showing meters. I've flown on commercial airline flights at 36,000 feet and have never seen the curvature of the earth. Very impressive flight.

    14. jurvetson 82 months ago | reply

      Yes.... I just rounded to ~100K ft. in the caption. Even more interesting, note that it is still supersonic at this point.... =)

    15. RocketGuy 81 months ago | reply

      Although, at that altitude supersonic is much slower. What units for velocity 320? Meters/Sec? That's a good clip...

    16. jurvetson 81 months ago | reply

      exactly... yes, all metric...

    17. jurvetson 79 months ago | reply

      WIRED issue 16.11 has a cool story and diagram of this rocket.

    18. SDBanjo [deleted] 62 months ago | reply

      Incredible! I always ended up missing BALLS but went to a few LDRS.

    19. BlackBirdCD 62 months ago | reply

      BALLS is a good time. I'd go back again sometime.

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