Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Rocket with secret payload lifts off, leaving only a slight trace

An Atlas V rocket carrying a secret communications satellite for the federal government lifts over Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It's known only as PAN, or "Palladium At Night."

I took a break from all of the Keys photos Tuesday to watch the lamest type of rocket launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, an Atlas V (Atlas 5) in 401 configuration, meaning it did not have any solid rocket boosters. The boosters create the contrails that make launches such as the Delta II so interesting, as is the case in these shots.

Additionally, the public can get only 12 miles from the launch pad on the northern side of the air station. The Delta II pad is on the southern end of the station, about three miles from Jetty Park in Port Canaveral. My location Tuesday was on the Banana River in Port Canaveral.

In this tightly cropped image, you can see how the rocket emits only a faint trail of vapor.

A slight trail did appear, however, for a short period of time once the rocket lifted higher into the atmosphere.

A close-up of the contrail.

A wide-angle shot shows how unimpressive the contrail was. The sky takes on a more purplish hue with this view.

After the rocket turned and headed more eastward, changing the angle at which I was viewing it, the flames took on a different form. This was about the last I saw of the Atlas V before it faded into the distance.

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