"Secret" Spaceplane Launch

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The pad erupted into a blaze of brilliant white and billowing clouds of exhaust. The Atlas, with the semi-secret X-37B space plane encased in its bulbous payload fairing at its nose, rose majestically into the sky.

Soon it was arcing eastward away from us and out over the Atlantic Ocean. This vehicle was obviously not heading for the International Space Station, as had been speculated by some of my colleagues!

The Atlas rose out of the dusky gloom into the sunshine, its trail of smoke changing from grey to pink to orange to white. Then it stopped leaving a trail for a time before it again began depositing a white trail high in the stratosphere.

In addition to maintaining the running radio commentary I alternately photographed and eyeballed this thrilling sight.
Listen or download sunset description (0 min 35 s - 0.6 MB)
and Listen or download launch commentary (8 min 12 s - 7.7 MB)

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Text, images and audio Copyright to Andrew Rennnie, 2010