CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Early risers across Florida were treated to a morning spectacle Thursday when a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket vaulted off the pad at Cape Canaveral, its massive exhaust plume illuminated by sunlight waiting just over the horizon.
Shortly after the 6:13 a.m. liftoff from Launch Complex 41, exhaust produced by the RD-180 engine and five solid rocket motors interacted with sunlight high in the atmosphere, creating a "jellyfish effect" seen as far as the state's west coast, according to News 6 partner Florida Today.
Residents in South Florida also reported seeing a strange streak in the sky.
On board the 200-foot-tall rocket was the fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency spacecraft, a military communications satellite.
AEHF-5 was slated to reach its intended orbit on the rocket's second stage about five-and-a-half hours after liftoff, or just before noon Thursday.
The launch wrapped up a busy week for the Eastern Range, which also hosted a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch on Tuesday.
Good Morning South Florida! Some of you may have seen a stunning pre-sunrise show this morning. Curious as to what it was? Well it was the United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket blasting off at 6:13 AM from Kennedy Space Center! Quite a view. https://t.co/BSNv3Jt7mK— NWS Miami (@NWSMiami) August 8, 2019
But the month has at least one more mission: a ULA Delta IV rocket -- the last of its kind -- is slated to launch no earlier than Aug. 22.