Want the world's best, up-close view of a rocket launch without being right there on site? For the first time, cameras provided live 360-degree video of a rocket heading toward space.
NASA provided the 360 stream on Tuesday as an unmanned Atlas rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with a capsule full of space station supplies.
The four fisheye-lens cameras were at the periphery of the launch pad, about 100 metres from the rocket. A computer in a blast-proof box stitched together the images for a full, in-the-round view. There was about a one-minute lag time.
To watch the video, you will need the latest version of Chrome, Opera, Firefox, or Internet Explorer on your desktop or laptop computer. On mobile devices, use the latest version of the YouTube app.
"It's great, I mean, to be able to get in there and experience that 360-degree view," said Vern Thorp, a program manager for rocket maker United Launch Alliance. Combining that with virtual reality goggles, "it really gives you a new perspective that we've never been able to do before," he said at a Monday news conference.
United Launch Alliance has previously released 360-degree video of two launches, but never live.
Orbital ATK, one of NASA's main delivery services for the International Space Station, opted to use an Atlas V rocket for this supply run instead of its own smaller, Virginia-based Antares rocket in order to send more items. The supply ship is known as the Cygnus after the swan constellation, and has been named the S.S. John Glenn.
Glenn became the first American to orbit earth in 1962 — launching on an Atlas rocket — and the oldest person to fly in space in 1998 aboard the shuttle Discovery. He died at age 95 in December. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery earlier this month.
"It's an honour to launch the spacecraft which has been named in memory of John Glenn," Thorp told reporters. "I feel like we're bridging history," he added, noting that an Atlas rocket was also used in Glenn's inaugural flight.