ACCENT Pictures

The Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket took-off on April 12, 1999 (Monday) at 6:50 p.m. EDT, successfully deploying the Eutelsat W3 satellite. The WB-57F made 11 passes through the plume of this rocket at altitudes between 58,000 and 62,000 feet beginning 8 minutes after the launch. The backseater of the WB-57F (Shelley Hilden of JSC) carried a small digital camera on this flight, and took a series of pictures of the ATLAS launch and plume. Click on any picture to see the full resolution. By the way, the WB-57F is a two seater plane with a pilot and an instrument operator (known as the backseater, since she sits behind the pilot)


Locheed Martin provided us with some beautiful shots of the rocket launch

Here we see two shots of the launch from the WB-57F. The Atlas rocket can just be resolved as the faint streak in the picture.

The Plume

Here we see a number shots of the plume following the launch. Note the wavy structure of the plume as atmospheric disturbances shear the plume apart.

A terrific example of the action of smale scale atmospheric waves on the Atlas plume.

In these two shots, the plume is very faint off of the starboard engine.


In these two shots, you can see how highly dispersed the plume becomes after an hour or so after the launch.


Shelley Hilden (our intrepid photographer and WB-57F backseater) snapped all of these images. In between plume passes, she snapped off her own image. The digital camera was courtesy of Tommy Thompson of the NOAA AL.

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Last Updated: 1999-04-14
Author: Dr. Paul A. Newman (NASA/GSFC, Code 916) (

Web Curator: Dr. Leslie R. Lait (Raytheon ITSS) (
Responsible NASA organization/official: Dr. Paul A. Newman, Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamics Branch