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Blastoff! Most Amazing Rocket Launch Photos of 2011

Minotaur 4 Launch on August 11, 2011

U.S. Air Force/Dan Liberotti

Team Vandenberg launched a Minotaur 4 from Space Launch Complex-8 here at 7:45 a.m. Aug. 11, 2011.

Russian Soyuz Rocket Launches With Progress 44 Cargo Ship

RSC Energia

A Russian Soyuz rocket launches the unmanned Progress 44 cargo ship from Baikonur Cosmodrome on Aug. 24, 2011, to deliver fresh supplies to the International Space Station. The rocket and spacecraft crashed in eastern Russian just over five minutes after liftoff.

Members of the Media Watch Grail's Smoke Trail

NASA/Kim Shiflett

Media representatives at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida photograph the launch of NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL). Liftoff was at 9:08:52 a.m. EDT on Sept. 10, 2011.

Ariane 5 Launch September 2011

ESA/CNES/Arianespace/Photo Optique vidéo du CSG

On 21 September 2011 an Ariane 5 launcher lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on its mission to place two telecommunications satellites, Arabsat-5C and SES-2, into their planned transfer orbits.

Tiangong 1 Lifts Off

China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology

China's first space laboratory module, Tiangong 1 (Chinese for "Heavenly Palace") blasts off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on Sept. 29, 2011. The module will fly a 2-year mission for docking tests.

Soyuz 2-1b Rocket Launch October 2011

Roscosmos

Soyuz 2-1b rocket lifts off on Sunday, October 2, 2011, from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia.

THAAD Test Flight Launch

Missile Defense Agency/U.S. Department of Defense

A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during the system's first operational test at 1:56 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time Oct. 5 at the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii. The test was conducted by the Ballistic Missile Defense System Operational Test Agency with the support of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. During the test the THAAD system engaged and simultaneously intercepted two ballistic missile targets.

Soyuz VS01 Clears the Tower

S. Corvaja/ESA/CNES/ARIANESPACE

Soyuz clears the tower for the first time from Europe's spaceport in French Guiana carrying the first two Galileo In-Orbit Validation satellites, on October 21, 2011.

Progress 45 Cargo Ship Launches Spaceward

RSC Energia

A Soyuz rocket carrying the Progress 45 cargo ship lifts off from a pad at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Oct. 30, 2011.

Shenzhou 8 Lifts Off

China Manned Space Engineering Office

Launch of Shenzhou 8 on October 31, 2011, was successful. According to the orbit calculation, the Shenzhou 8 spaceship has entered its operating orbit with a perigee height of 200 km and apogee height of 329 km. The obliquity of the orbit is 42 degrees, and the orbiting cycle is 5379 seconds.

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