This past weekend, I watched the Sentinel-6 launch, the fourth launch I went to see. The first launch I attended was the ill-fated Orb-3 mission (see the resulting fireball in my post on that mission) launching on an Antares rocket from the MARS facility in Virginia. The second one was InSight launching on an Atlas V from Vandenberg Air Force Base. No post and no pictures for this launch—the marine layer over Vandenberg was so dense that not even the light from the thrusting engines could be seen through the clouds. Only the loud rumble of the engines was audible, slowly fading indicating the rocket was speeding away. Launch number 3 was OA-9E (see post here). Like Orb-3, OA-9E launched from MARS on an Antares rocket.

This brings us to Sentinel-6. You can read more about the Sentinel-6 mission on my wife’s blog who worked on the satellite’s radiometer, the AMR-C instrument. Sentinel-6 also launched from Vandenberg, using a Falcon 9 rocket. The launch was scheduled for 9:17am local time, and while I expected the marine layer still hanging over the base in the morning, the weather turned out to be a lot more favorable with blue, clear skies.

Any launch is a spectacular event: the bright flames from the thrusters, the loud rumble arriving seconds later, and then the rocket noisily making its way upwards. But with some Falcon 9 launches there is the extra perk of also getting to see the booster returning to the launch site. And as it falls back to Earth at supersonic speeds, it emits a triple sonic boom for extra effect.

Watching from Ocean Avenue outside Lompac, California, I took pictures using my new Nikon Z 6II. Small caveat: the longest lens I have for that body is the 85mm Z-mount prime that Nikon makes. I tried to pick up the 24-200mm f/4-6.3 zoom lens before the launch, but it was sold out everywhere. An alternative option would have been the 70-200mm f/2.8 Z-mount lens, which would have been a significantly more pricey endeavor. I don’t have any full-frame F-mount lenses nor the FTZ adapter. With the adapter, there would have been more in-stock lens options. In fact, a friendly wedding photographer who parked closely to where I camped out to watch the launch offered to lend me his F-mount 70-200mm, but unfortunately that won’t fit without the FTZ adapter on the Z 6II’s Z-mount. Therefore (and also because I was further away from the pad), my pictures of this launch show a bit more landscape and a bit less rocket than the ones I took of the Orb-3 and OA-9 launches (for which I used my D5100 with an APS-C format 55-200mm zoom lens).

Below are some of the pictures I took. Due to lack of Z 6II support in Lightroom, I’ve lightly edited these in Luminar 4 to avoid having to do a manual raw conversion.