ULA's 1st Vulcan Centaur rocket launch looks spectacular in these photos and videos

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. 

Related: ULA's Vulcan rocket launches private US moon lander, 1st since Apollo, and human remains in debut flight

Space.com's Josh Dinner captured these incredible shots of Vulcan Centaur blasting off from the launch pad. (Image credit: Josh Dinner)

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). (Image credit: CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)

The launch sent Astrobotic's Peregrine moon lander toward Earth's nearest neighbor, where it is expected to land on Feb. 23. (Image credit: CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)

The Jan. 8 launch was the first-ever for the powerful Vulcan Centaur rocket. the successor to ULA's Atlas V and Delta rockets. (Image credit: CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)

Vulcan Centaur streaks through the sky.  (Image credit: GREGG NEWTON/AFP via Getty Images)

The Vulcan Centaur rocket vents shortly before lifting off from Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Jan. 8, 2024. (Image credit: CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)

The Vulcan Centaur rocket makes its maiden flight from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. (Image credit: CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)

Across the social media site X, formerly known as Twitter, spectators and photographers appeared thrilled to have witnessed the first flight of Vulcan Centaur. 

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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
Reference Editor

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!