An Atlas V rocket lit up the predawn sky over Florida early Tuesday (Dec. 7) to launch a novel NASA laser space communications satellite into orbit alongside a host of other payloads for the U.S. Space Force. –


The two-stage Atlas V rocket blasted off from Space Launch Complex 41 here at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 5:19 a.m. EST (1019 GMT), as part of a mission called STP-3 (Space Test Program-3). The successful liftoff came more than an hour after the mission’s planned launch time due to high upper level winds, and after days of delays due to a fuel leak at the launch pad.

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V soared into orbit with the help of five solid rocket boosters. Onlookers were treated to dazzling views of the rocket as it raced through the atmosphere.