Rocket Launches via Augmented Reality

On May 11 it looked like conditions would finally be favorable for the launch of SpaceX's Bangabandhu Satellite-1 mission. The Bangabandhu-1 is the first geostationary communications satellite for Bangladesh.

As time approached for the launch, I thought I would hunt for a good app to let me follow launch status. (There's not much point in running out to the beach to watch a launch until the likelihood of launch looks pretty good!) I only had a few minutes to spare before the scheduled launch time. By sheer luck I discovered a fantastic app, dubbed "321 Launch."

321 Launch is sponsored by Florida Today and USA Today newspapers. Several cool things struck me as I downloaded the app and opened it. First, you can set up an augmented reality simulation of the launch on any flat surface. I chose to set it up on the floor of our oceanside balcony. By aiming my phone in the right direction, I could walk around a replica of the launch pad and the Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket, zoom in on different features of the rocket and the pad, watch it launch (as it were) from our deck, and then watch a model of the rocket climb (as it were) into the air in front of my face. (Being a fairly cloudy day, this was just about the best way to follow the action.) Meanwhile, I had live video feeds from cameras on the first stage of the rocket (the booster) as well as the second stage of the rocket. Once the booster separated, I could follow it's descent. And if that wasn't impressive enough, I could switch to a mode that showed me the rocket's trajectory through the sky, and the path of descent of the booster, in 3D, from where I was standing, about 25 miles south of Cape Canaveral. Of course the video feed from the droneship showed me when the booster had landed.

If you're a space buff, or a technology geek, or you just want to give your kids or your students a fascinating experience, download this app and watch for the next launch. It's the next best thing to watching a launch in Florida. (Even if you're in Florida.)