Friday, March 11, 2011

Delta IV launches reconnaissance satellite

A Delta IV rocket roared from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 6:38 p.m. today, sending a reconnaissance satellite on its way toward orbit.

The 21-story United Launch Alliance rocket lifted off 41 minutes later than planned, delayed by strong upper-level winds that could have pushed the rocket off course.

An umbilical trail of smoke and steam turned shades of yellow and pink as the rocket climbed slightly to the southeast into fading sunlight in a cloudless sky.

The rocket's wo solids rocket boosters could be seen falling away like embers about 90 seconds into flight.

On top was a National Reconnaissance Office satellite. Because of the mission's secrecy, ULA's launch Webcast cut off four-and-a-half minutes into flight, after the first stage had separated, the second stage ignited and the payload fairing separated.

The launch was ULA's third of the year and second in a week from Cape Canaveral, following last Saturday's Atlas V launch of an Air Force mini-shuttle.

Less than half an hour after the Delta IV set sail, the International Space Station made a bright pass over the launch site (left).

IMAGES: Credit: Michael R. Brown, FLORIDA TODAY.

No comments: