Had a little fun at work and out popped some rocket illustrations.

Recently, I was tasked with a project at work that required illustrations demonstrating a progression or launch to represent moving through a series of steps. I decided to go with the stages of a NASA Space Launch System (SLS) launch to present each phase and keep within the NASA and space theme.

SLS on the launchpad at night

I decided to have phase one start with SLS on the launch pad the night before launch. For this illustration, I drew inspiration from a recent opportunity I had to report on the Orion EFT-1 launch down at Kennedy Space Center (KSC). During that time, I was able to accompany the news reporters to watch the Delta IV Heavy rocket rollout with the Orion capsule stacked on top. It was a mesmerizing experience and an unbelievable opportunity. As we pulled up to the launch pad, the spotlights shot laser beams of light on the rocket and up into the sky. The white color of the Orion capsule casing caused it to glow brightly in the deep dark night sky. Besides the moment of launch itself, that rocket demanded my attention.

The second phase was to display the start of the launch and the break of daylight. At KSC the launch pads are typically located within a stones throw of the ocean which provides a stellar backdrop for rocket launches. In this illustration I wanted to demonstrate the feel for what it’s like to see a rocket launch at KSC. Using the Orion EFT-1 launch as an example, it was an early morning launch making an easy transition from night to morning. I included the sunrise, the clouds (which are very typical of Florida), and the ocean as a backdrop. You can almost feel the warmth of the sun rising.

NASA Space Launch System as it takes off

I needed a nice transition from Earth to space, so a standard blast through the clouds was in order for phase three. After completing the illustrations, I posted a few on Twitter and I got a few comments back stating that the birds weren’t to scale. These illustrations were in no way expected to demonstrate scale or accuracy, they are representations of the feeling and emotion behind each phase of the launch. The birds help represent what its like to be up in the blue sky, among the clouds, dancing with the birds. As a skydiver, I can tell you that it is a wonderful feeling to be up there, even with the Pterodactyl-sized birds flying around, phase three gives a good sense of the emotion.

NASA Space Launch System as it launches through the stratosphere

Lastly, I needed a fourth phase to demonstrate making it in to space. This one proved to be a bit more difficult and I wish I had a bit more time on it. I wanted to display the separation stages of the rocket and Orion into orbit. I couldn’t quite find what i needed to help create this scene so I reached out to the @NASA_SLS and @NASA_Orion and received back the perfect video to work from. After watching the video, I now know a few things that need to be fixed. Not bad for a first stab.

NASA Space Launch System as it enters space

I had no idea how well these would be received by the space community:

  • “Beautiful! Do you have higher resolution versions of them?”
  • “These are amazing, ever do a shuttle one?”
  • “A Gemini to SLS series under xenon lights would be great.”
  • “Can I use these as the background on my phone?”

To answer a few questions: Yes, I will post higher resolution versions online when the project I’m working on wraps up. I hadn’t thought about it before, but now I am considering a rocket series. Who knows where this will all go, but I’m sure there will be more to come.