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These Atlas V rocket Space Force launch photos and videos are simply epic

rocket launching through clouds and making them glow orange
An Atlas V rocket bearing SBIRS GEO-6 punches through clouds on Aug. 4, 2022. (Image credit: U.S. Space Force photo by Joshua Conti)

Feel the powerful glow of a rocket launch aftermath in these incredible photos and videos.

One of the top military rocket liftoffs from earlier this month got a huge footage boost from both the U.S. Space Force and United Launch Alliance (ULA).

The incredible photos show the roar of the ULA Atlas V rocket as it shot a new military satellite into orbit Aug. 4. The satellite, known as SBIRS GEO-6, is the sixth and final spacecraft launched to form a constellation that will detect and track missiles known as the Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit program. 

Space Force footage below shows the powerful rocket creating an artificial sunrise at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. You can see the heavy-lift Atlas V glowing in the reflection of the water surrounding the launch facility, and then creating a funnel-shaped plume as it soars high in the atmosphere of Earth.

Related: The most dangerous space weapons of all time

An Atlas V rocket bearing SBIRS GEO-6 punches through clouds on Aug. 4, 2022. (Image credit: U.S. Space Force photo by Joshua Conti)
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The sunrise launch of the Atlas V rocket bearing SBIRS GEO-6 Aug. 4, 2022 created a haunting glow in the water at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. (Image credit: U.S. Space Force photo by Joshua Conti)
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An overview view of the SBIRS GEO-6 rocket plume in the moments after launch Aug. 4, 2022. (Image credit: U.S. Space Force photo by Joshua Conti)
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ULA also got in to the fun, hosting videos and photos both from the official website and from its CEO, Tory Bruno. "Looking into the maw of rocket exhaust glory," Bruno said in one tweet showing a scary close-up shot of the rocket lifting off from the pad.

United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched the sixth Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (SBIRS GEO-6) satellite this morning (Aug. 4). (Image credit: United Launch Alliance )
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SBIRS GEO-6 is in commissioning to work alongside five other satellites in geostationary orbit, which is roughly 100 times higher than that of the International Space Station.

Working together at 22,200 miles (35,700 kilometers) above Earth, each satellite is spaced out in a pathway to get broad coverage of our planet. The newest member of the fleet includes "infrared surveillance to support missile warning, missile defense, battlespace awareness and technical intelligence," according to an SSC press release (opens in new tab). ("Infrared surveillance" means monitoring the heat signatures associated with a red-hot rocket launch.

This latest launch rounds out a series of satellites that began launching in 2011. A next-generation missile detection system is already in the works, too.

Those detection systems are becoming paramount now that new classes of weapons are being developed by the United States and its peer rivals. Space Force, DARPA and the U.S. military are working on hypersonic weapons systems, meaning those that can exceed five times the speed of sound (Mach 5), as well as a fresh network of satellites to detect those weapons launching from non-allied countries.

An example of what the Americans are facing is the Kinzhal missile announced by Russian state media in 2018, which the Russians claim can fly five times faster than the speed of sound. The speed and maneuverability of these weapons require new methods to detect and track them after launch.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she also tackles topics like diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, three space shuttle missions in Florida, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Her latest book, Leadership Moments from NASA, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.