discovery photography


     While driving down Interstate 5 through Santa Ana, California, you may have spotted this rocket. Even for space fans, identifying this vehicle may be difficult. It is a rare Delta Cryogenic Second Stage (DCSS) for the short lived Delta III rocket. This DCSS has a home at Discovery Cube Orange County, where she acts as an effective billboard for this educational museum. This equipment is appropriately placed near Huntington Beach where this particular payload fairing was manufactured.

     On August 27, 1998, the Delta 259 mission lifted off from Launch Complex 17B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, marking the first flight of a Delta III, carrying the Galaxy 10 communication satellite. During the burn of its first stage, a design flaw in the rocket’s guidance system caused it to violently diverge from its planned trajectory and begin to break up. During the breakup process, the flight termination system was activated by the range safety officer, causing what was left of the rocket to explode. The Galaxy 10 satellite could be seen that night as a flaming ball streaking down until it spectacularly exploded as it hit the Atlantic Ocean. 

     The second flight of a Delta III would take place on May 5, 1999, as the Delta 269 mission flew from the same pad. Thanks to a manufacturing flaw in the Pratt & Whitney RL10B-2 engine, the second stage burn was cut short, causing the stage to tumble into a useless orbit. The Orion 3 communication satellite was written off and a second payload was lost.

     A final flight of the Delta III would take place on August 23, 2000, with the Delta 280 mission, which carried a dummy payload called DM-F3. This time, the flight was a success, but it was too late for the Delta III. The commercial satellite industry took a steep dive in the late 1990s. The more powerful Delta IV was just a few years away from its first flight, and Boeing was pursuing a more conservative Delta II Heavy rocket. These factors, combined with the failures, caused the Delta III to be quietly shelved. Some spare parts from the program were flown on various Delta II and Delta IV flights, and in the late 2000s, Boeing donated this DCSS to Discovery Cube Orange County where it stands today, greeting passersby on Interstate 5.

One of the most stunning/inspiring images we’ve ever seen “Hypnosis” by 📸: Mariano Sebastián Rodrígue

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     Discovery, the queen of the Space Shuttle Orbiter fleet, now rests in the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. As the high-time orbiter, she spent 365 days in space and flew 148,221,675 miles over the course of her 39 spaceflight missions. These figures are outstanding, though the shuttle orbiters were designed to fly up to 100 times in space.

     At the beginning of her operational career in 1984, Discovery was destined to be the DoD (Department of Defense) orbiter. It was ordained by NASA that her home would be Vandenberg Air Force Base’s SLC-6 (Space Launch Complex - 6) in California. There she would fly classified missions for the US Military. The nation went full speed ahead in preparing Vandenberg to support these missions, but the 1986 Challenger Disaster would cancel any plans to fly from the West Coast. Discovery did, however, fly four of the ten classified DoD shuttle missions, all emanating from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

     Discovery’s more notable moments include the deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope, one docking to Space Station Mir and 13 dockings to the International Space Station. After both the Challenger and Columbia Disasters, Discovery would lead our nation back into space on bold return to flight missions. After 26 years of service, her final spaceflight touched down at Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility on March 9, 2011. After a lengthy de-milling process, Discovery began the second chapter of her service, now on museum duty.


#LocalLens: Time Travel through Luanda with @notflavio

In this series, local Instagrammers show you their favorite places to shoot around where they live. To see more photos of Luanda, Angola, through Flávio’s eyes, follow @notflavio on Instagram.

Flávio Cardoso (@notflavio) is an experienced time traveler, simultaneously capturing Angola’s past and present. Through his camera, the 27-year-old information technology advisor from Luanda records nostalgic relics, like aging walls and shattered windows, scattered amid shiny new architectural designs in his southern African hometown. “People just let go of things they once treasured. There’s a lot you can tell from the past when it’s left abandoned,” he says. Flávio’s fascination with old objects is very much a result of his surroundings. “You get all sorts of contrasts around here; from the richest people in Africa to very poor people struggling to survive in the streets to expensive luxury cars parked right next to rotting, used commuters,” he explains.

Lucky for Flávio, there are many nearby places to explore Luanda’s history and make new memories for himself. “One of my favorite places is certainly Santiago Beach, also known as Ship’s Graveyard, where several decomposing ships were left abandoned. This is also where Natalia Vieira (@nat_rvieira), Rui Jorge (@ruyjorgee) and I had our first InstaMeet, and it inspired many photo adventures here in Angola.” Hotel Panorama, a decaying hotel with mesmerizing views of the city and sea, is also among Flávio’s favorite photo locations. Although his photos capture scenes of destruction, they also bring the past back to life, in hopes that these places and objects may be valued again.