Watching a rocket launch is every science student’s dream and I am no exception. From last one years, I shifted my base to Chennai – working for a startup and whenever I move to any new city, I look for nearby destinations to visit. One of my long-awaited wishes was to witness a rocket launch and click the most awe-inspiring image of the launch. The moment presents itself with Chandrayaan 2. I along with a couple of office colleagues planned the trip and while planning we could not find a single source for all our questions.
So I decided to pen down a blog answering all whats, hows and whens along with few hacks :). BTW, did I tell I attended both launch windows (one postponed and one actual) of Chandrayaan 2 from the viewing galleries without even registering to on the website? I got lucky but I will tell you how.
What is the first step for planning a visit?
The high profile launches such as Chandrayaan are known to us quite well in advance but usually, ISRO announces the launch window (date & time) about 7-10 days in advance. This information is available on ISRO and SHAR websites.
There is another interesting website: https://spaceflightnow.com/launch-schedule/
How to register for watching from the viewing gallery?
The registration is very simple. Click on the link below and follow the steps:
What if I missed registering for watching the launch?
You are not alone. ISRO apparently can launch heavy rockets to the last precision but can not handle increased web traffic. Since I wanted to attend the most famous Chandrayan 2, there was a huge rush and I failed to register both the time.
So googled for other stops with similar or better views. It turned out that viewing from Pulicat Lake is much better than the viewing gallery during the day time launches (with the lake ii background it is bound to look more scenic)
With a conviction that we will be able to witness the launch, we drove all the way from Chennai. Once you enter the Sullurupeta town is quite obvious and ask anyone for the directions. Just before main entry to SHAR where they ask for the entry pass, there is a right turn towards banks of the lake. (between 7KM and 5KM milestone) Even CISF personnel will guide you. And trust me, you will find a significant number of enthusiasts in your quest. We found even for 2 AM launch.
I will now tell you a secret that not many know: there is even offline registration for viewing gallery. It was a hunch that we took. We told officers that we are from IIT and we will do an offline registration inside. It worked for us till the last checkpoint after parking. There we discovered that there actually offline registration happening (long queues though) 😊. Only one original legitimate identity proof is required with address (AADHAR or Voter ID). Keep time in hand for such adventures. Also, it may not work for you.
Fun Fact: Even the viewing gallery is around 5 KM from the actual launch site with thick forest cover in between. You can even guess the actual launch direction.
Which is better: lake or gallery?
I only experienced it from viewing gallery but seeing the background of the lake, it should form an amazing background when the lake is filled with water (imagine reflections images 😊). I will updated the blog afterwards.
How about night launches?
With a sheer amount of fuel burning for the launch, I am sure the night launch view from Lake side would be spectacular. The only time I went for night launch, it was cancelled at the last moment.
Where to stay in Sriharikota?
There are many hotels in Sullurupeta town (15 KM from Sriharikota) but I would not recommend staying. Plan it as a pit stop for a road trip. You would anyways need a vehicle, which btw would be very difficult (demand-supply).
What else can I do near Sriharikota?
Nothing much actually, one is not allowed inside Satish Dhawan Space Center (SDSC) during launches (not sure about other time).
There is a Pulicat lake which hosts migratory bird during Feb-March. During summer the lake is mostly dry with a white salty layer (like Rann of Kuch).