Last week’s Cygnus NG-11 launch was a technical landmark, and also a crowdpleaser. Spectators flocked to the rare afternoon launch, enjoying the clear, sunny weather, which provided a perfect view of the Antares 230 rocket and the fairing holding its fresh-packed Cygnus cargo module.
For now, it’s still a unique experience, but soon orbital launches will be a more regular feature at a greater number of spaceports. Considering the FAA’s moves to to type-certify rockets and not the exact launch sites they use, along with the various new ranges in the Desert Southwest that aim to prove the inland spaceport model, the idea that a rocket can launch from the Midwest is no longer so far-fetched.
As more satellites launch from more places, the day may soon come when, like trains and planes before them, rocket launches will draw only the dedicated spectator. Until then, there will be the roar of the crowd along with the roar of the engines.