|Occurred : 5/22/1999 02:40 (Entered as : 05/22/99 0240)
Reported: 5/22/1999 11:14
Location: Andrade, CA
|((NUFORC: Our gratitude to this witness for an excellent report, and for providing us with the information which alerted us to the possibility of a launch out of Vandenberg AFB. We had been apprised of the upcoming launch, but had forgotten about the notification.))
Orange light ascending, two pieces separating, then flying horizontally, very visible shock wave.
At 0240 local time, in Andrade, CA (Where the California, Arizona, and Mexican borders meet) I saw an orange light rising in the western sky(about 290 degrees)leaving a trail of the same color. At first it appeared to be a firework or flare. But as I continued to watch, the light did not descend. Instead it began to move horizontally to the south. At this point I grabbed my binoculars, and I could see that in addition to the brightest object there were two dimmer objects with fading orange tails which had apparently separated from the main object, and were decelerating, descending, and dimming. I assume they were boosters of some sort. I continued to watch the brightest object, which now had what appeared to be a very prominent shock wave originating in front of it. After maybe 30 seconds, the shock wave suddenly got much bigger, then dissipated as the object continued southbound. The object seemed to accelerate at this point. I watched the object until it was obscured by a nearby mountain. The object never changed color, and once it began moving horizontally never seemed to change direction, and from my perspective did not appear to be climbing or descending. I would estimate that it was visible for two or three minutes. By the color, I believe that the glow must have been from friction with the atmosphere. While I would guess that the object was of Earthly origin since it appeared to have take off from somewhere in California, it certainly was not any type of conventional aircraft I have ever heard of. There was simply no reference for me to be able to estimate distance, speed, or altitude, but it was about 25 degrees above the horizon. I don't know from how far away a shock wave - if that's what it was - would be visible with 7 power binoculars, but perhaps that would help estimate a rough maximum distance. I am assuming that whatever it was must have taken off from Vandenburg AFB. But if that was the case, and it stayed over the Pacific (which it mst have, or it would have been in Mex! ican airspace) it would have been at least 150 miles away from me. This was also witnessed by my partner, who was in my vehicle at the time. My background: I am currently a Border Patrol Agent, and was a Marine helicopter pilot from 1987 - 1997.