Dazzling Launch Photos: Minotaur 1 Rocket's Late-Night Liftoff

Air Force's Nighttime Rocket Launch

NASA/Wallops Flight Facility

When a U.S. Air Force rocket blasted off from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va., it lit up the late-night sky with a spectacular 11:09 p.m. EDT liftoff.

The Minotaur 1 rocket launch sent the new ORS-1 tactical imagery satellite into orbit on a mission to provide fast and accurate battlefield information to U.S. soldiers on the ground. See some spectacular images from the nighttime launch here.

Arc of Light

Neil Winston

Skywatcher Neil Winston snapped this amazing photo of the Minotaur 1 rocket launch carrying the ORS-1 satellite on June 29, 2011. Winston took the photo from a beach in Lusby, Md., overlooking Chesapeake Bay near NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, where the rocket launched.

3, 2, 1, Ignition

Orbital Sciences

Ignition of the Minotaur I rocket as it launches the ORS-1 satellite from the MARS 0B pad at Wallops Island, Va., on June 29, 2011.

The rocket launched after a one-day delay due to bad weather.

First Photos: Engine Start

NASA/Wallops Flight Facility

The Air Force's ORS-1 reconnaissance satellite races into orbit on the night of June 29, 2011. The satellite satellite blasted off from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va. [Video: Minotaur 1 Rocket Streaks Into Night Sky]

First Photos: Next Stop Orbit


A Minotaur 1 rocket carrying the U.S. military's new ORS-1 reconnaissance satellite blasts off from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va., on June 29, 2011.

Like a Comet


This still from a NASA launch video shows Minotaur 1 rocket, with a plume of exhaust giving it a comet like appearance, as it soars into orbit on June 29, 2011 carrying the new ORS-1 tactical imagery satellite for the U.S. military. The launch blasted off from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va.

Shower of Sparks


The first stage of a U.S. Air Force Minotaur 1 rocket separates in a shower of sparks as planned in this still from a NASA video of the Minotaur 1 rocket launch from Wallops Island, Va., to orbit the ORS-1 satellite on June 29, 2011.

Rocket Launch Viewing Area

NASA/Wallops Mission Planning Lab

This chart displays areas that were expected have the possibility of seeing the Minotaur 1 rocket and ORS-1 after launch on June 29, 2011 from Wallops Island, Va.

Early reports from skywatchers suggest the launch was visible from at least as far north as New York City.

Next Stop, Space

NASA/Wallops Flight Facility

A Minotaur rocket sits on the pad at Wallops Island, Va., waiting to loft the ORS-1 satellite for the Operationally Responsive Space Office.

Meet the ORS-1 Satellite

United States Air Force

Illustration of the ORS-1 satellite, an operational prototype, scheduled for a one to two-year mission, which carries advanced imaging sensors to provide ultra-accurate battlefield imagery for the U.S. military.

Satellite Meets Rocket

U.S. Air Force

The ORS-1 spacecraft is photographed encapsulated in the Minotaur I upper stack and fairing on June 16 at NASA's Wallops Island Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va. ORS-1 is scheduled to launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, located at Wallops Island, on June 28, 2011.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at Space.com and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.