Photographers Snap Dazzling Views of Cygnus Spacecraft's Nighttime Launch

Cygnus OA-6 Launch by Sabo
An Atlas V rocket, viewed from Tampa, Florida, arcs across the sky on its way to the International Space station. (Image credit: Thomas Damgaard Sabo)

An Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft successfully took off from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station late last night (March 22), and the event was captured by multiple amateur sky photographers.

Atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, the robotic cargo craft launched on its way toward the International Space Station, carrying crew supplies, science experiments and research tools. This is Orbital ATK's OA-6 such mission, part of NASA's Commercial Resupply Program.

From Tampa, Florida, Thomas Damgaard Sabo took a long-exposure image (seen above) of the rocket arcing skyward. The long-exposure time is evident from the brightness of the horizon (Sabo's line of sight would have crossed the bright lights of Orlando, Florida), and the short streaks created by the stars in the upper portion of the image.

Amateur sky photographer Pilar Horne snapped this image of an Atlas V rocket lighting up the sky. The image was taken from Merritt Island, Florida. (Image credit: Pilar Horne)

Pilar Horne snapped another long-exposure image of the launch from the shore of Merritt Island, Florida, just across the Banana River from the launch site. the gorgeous snapshot is darker than Sabo's, as Horne would have been facing away from the mainland, toward the open ocean.

The Cygnus spacecraft was loaded with science experiments and other supplies that will help bring the space station back up to its regular baseline. The station's supply chain has taken a hit in the last two years, during which time three cargo-supply vehicles failed to reach the station, including one Cygnus spacecraft.

A more distant view of an Atlas V rocket, launching from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, taken by sky photographer Victor Rogus. (Image credit: Victor Rogus)

Sky photographer Victor Rogus snapped a distant view of the rising rocket from his home in Florida. The reddish streak of the rocket trail can be seen above a Florida neighborhood — the brightness of the houses and the sky comes from a flashlight Rogus was holding, as well as the full moon, which was lurking in the sky just over his shoulder, he told

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Calla Cofield
Senior Writer

Calla Cofield joined's crew in October 2014. She enjoys writing about black holes, exploding stars, ripples in space-time, science in comic books, and all the mysteries of the cosmos. Prior to joining Calla worked as a freelance writer, with her work appearing in APS News, Symmetry magazine, Scientific American, Nature News, Physics World, and others. From 2010 to 2014 she was a producer for The Physics Central Podcast. Previously, Calla worked at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City (hands down the best office building ever) and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California. Calla studied physics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and is originally from Sandy, Utah. In 2018, Calla left to join NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory media team where she oversees astronomy, physics, exoplanets and the Cold Atom Lab mission. She has been underground at three of the largest particle accelerators in the world and would really like to know what the heck dark matter is. Contact Calla via: E-Mail – Twitter