Stunning Photos Of Saturday’s Mysterious Rocket Launch

Gaze upon the titanic beauty of a launching rocket

Delta IV Heavy Awaits Launch

Rockets spend most of their lives waiting. Here, the Delta IV Heavy that carried the National Reconnaissance Office’s mysterious payload into space on June 11 basks in a sunset.

Last weekend, a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket hurtled a mysterious payload into orbit. The classified cargo, delivered on behalf of the National Reconnaissance Office, is possibly a spy satellite, though we may not know for years or more what it actually was. What we can do is bask in the beauty of a rocket hurtling an enigma into orbit.

Read about the project’s weird logo, watch Saturday’s launch, and enjoy the photos below:

Waiting In Daylight

“The Delta IV Heavy is capable of placing a payload of 6,750 kilograms (14,900 lb) directly into geosynchronous orbit,” says NASA, “or upwards of 14,000 kg (31,000 lb) into a geosynchronous transfer orbit.”


This is what 2,950 kilonewtons of thrust looks like.

In Air

Casual reminder that putting stuff on rockets and hurtling them into space is something humans do regularly now.

Smoke Trail

One sudden cloud, made by a machine built my humans, marks a pathway to the stars.
Kelsey D. Atherton
Kelsey D. Atherton

Kelsey D. Atherton is a defense technology journalist based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His work on drones, lethal AI, and nuclear weapons has appeared in Slate, The New York Times, Foreign Policy, and elsewhere.