United Launch Alliance's (ULA) Vulcan Centaur rocket lifted off from Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Monday (Jan. 8) at 2:18 a.m. EST (0718 GMT).
The launch — the first ever for the powerful Vulcan Centaur — sent Astrobotic's private Peregrine moon lander toward Earth's nearest neighbor, where it is expected to land on Feb. 23. Success in that effort would be historic: No private spacecraft has ever touched down softly on the lunar surface.
Here we take a look at some of the first photos from this stunning nighttime launch.
Across the social media site X, formerly known as Twitter, spectators and photographers appeared thrilled to have witnessed the first flight of Vulcan Centaur.
Two BE-4 methane engines from Blue Origin and two GEM 63XL solid rocket boosters from Northrop Grumman power the first United Launch Alliance Vulcan rocket toward space pic.twitter.com/Fhz3Is6v0UJanuary 8, 2024
Go Vulcan! Go Peregrine! A beautiful first launch. #Cert1 pic.twitter.com/tFvXoq7nBcJanuary 8, 2024
The thin clouds gave some dramatic night long exposure shots of the first #VulcanRocket 🚀 flight. #Cert1 pic.twitter.com/DTdAlPBcPjJanuary 8, 2024
😋 Mmmm... rocket engines. 🚀 #VulcanRocket📷: me for @SuperclusterHQ pic.twitter.com/0JucrCtt2UJanuary 8, 2024
Inaugural #VulcanRocket 🚀 flight, #Cert1. Turn up the volume for that good engine rumble. And I always love the reflection off Banana Creek. pic.twitter.com/WhSipeuAE2January 8, 2024
Vulcan Centaur could fly again relatively soon. The rocket's next mission, which will send Sierra Space's Dream Chaser space plane toward the International Space Station on a robotic cargo mission, may lift off as early as April.
ULA has four other missions on Vulcan Centaur's manifest after that in 2024 as well, for a total of six potential flights this year.
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Daisy Dobrijevic joined Space.com in February 2022 having previously worked for our sister publication All About Space magazine as a staff writer. Before joining us, Daisy completed an editorial internship with the BBC Sky at Night Magazine and worked at the National Space Centre in Leicester, U.K., where she enjoyed communicating space science to the public. In 2021, Daisy completed a PhD in plant physiology and also holds a Master's in Environmental Science, she is currently based in Nottingham, U.K. Daisy is passionate about all things space, with a penchant for solar activity and space weather. She has a strong interest in astrotourism and loves nothing more than a good northern lights chase!