LADEE Launch

On Friday night, 6 Sep 2013, NASA launched LADEE, a small robotic spacecraft designed to study the moon’s tenuous atmosphere. LADEE was lofted into space by a five-stage solid-fueled Orbital Sciences Minotaur V from Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, VA (which I had previously visited for the launch of Antares, another Orbital Sciences rocket). We watched the Minotaur launch from the roof in Fairfax, and I had my DSLR out to catch this 141 second long exposure:

Minotaur V Launch with LADEE lunar probe

Even from 120 miles away, the rocket was unmistakably bright in the sky, a flickering torch that shot up into the night sky, darkening and brightening and darkening again as the stages burned out and new stages ignited. A distinct gap in the long arc of the ascent marks a silent coast phase between second stage burnout and third stage ignition. After about three minutes, the rocket had faded into the distance, headed for a translunar injection burn that would set LADEE on course for the moon.

I love how this photo came out, and so did National Geographic Daily News’s photo editor, as they asked permission to use it in a gallery, so there’s my LADEE photo on National Geographic. — and on Capital Weather. I also wrote a WeLoveDC post on viewing the launch.

Official NASA launch video:

And a nice close-up view from a NASASocial attendee: