Streaking away from Cape Canaveral less than an hour before sunrise Wednesday, an Atlas 5 launcher painted a memorable spectacle in the skies over Florida, catching the first rays of the morning as it rocketed out of the stratosphere with a U.S. Navy communications satellite.
The 20-story rocket blasted off at 6:18 a.m. EDT (1018 GMT) with the fourth in a series of Navy-owned spacecraft to facilitate better communications links betweens U.S. forces on the move.
Fitted with five strap-on solid rocket boosters and a kerosene-fueled RD-180 main engine, the Atlas 5 quickly sped away from Cape Canaveral, displaying a turbulent plume of bright white exhaust as it climbed into the rarefied upper atmosphere.
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