Stunning NASA Photo Shows Night Rocket Launch into Space

Atlas V Rocket Lifts Off with TDRS-L Spacecraft
In this long-exposure photograph, a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Jan. 23, 2014, illuminating a beach restoration site at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Liftoff was at 9:33 p.m. EST boosting the agency's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, or TDRS-L, spacecraft to Earth orbit. (Image credit: NASA/Tony Gray)

A rocket carrying NASA's latest high-tech relay satellite streaks into orbit from a launch pad in Florida in an amazing image captured by a space agency photographer.

Photographer Tony Gray took this long-exposure photograph of an unmanned United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket hurtling NASA's newest Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, called the TDRS-L, into orbit on Jan. 23 from a pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The light from the rocket engines illuminated a beach restoration site filled with construction vehicles.

The TDRS-L satellite is the second of three new satellites designed to keep NASA's operations going by extending the lifespan of the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS), a fleet of eight satellites in geosynchronous orbit. The spacecraft provide tracking, telemetry, command and high bandwidth data return services for numerous science and human exploration missions orbiting Earth, including NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station.

TDRS-L utilizes a high-performance solar panel designed to provide more power to meet growing S-band communications requirements. TDRSS makes up one of NASA's Space Communication and Navigation’s SCaN three networks providing space communications for the U.S. space agency's missions.

The first of the third-generation satellites, TDRS-K, launched on Jan. 30, 2013, and TDRS fleet accepted it in mid-August. NASA plans to launch TDRS-M in 2015.

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Tom Chao
Tom Chao has contributed to as a producer and writer since 2000. As a writer and editor, he has worked for the Voyager Company, Time Inc. New Media, HarperCollins and Worth Publishers. He has a bachelor’s degree in Cinema Production from the University of Southern California, and a master’s degree from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Tom on Google+.