Space and astronomy news and information for the American Southwest. Coverage includes Vandenberg AFB rocket and missile launches.

Delta IV Rocket / NROL-22 Launch Images and Video

2021 September 5

Boeing's Delta IV rocket made its West Coast debut on 2006 June 27 when a Delta IV lifted-off from California's Vandenberg AFB and placed a classified payload into orbit for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office. The launch occurred at dusk and was seen and photographed over a wide area. The following is a collection of selected videos and images of the event.

Chris Johnson
Santa Barbara, California

The first several seconds of the launch including the burn of the solid rocket motors are visible in this video (.mp4 format, .mov format) submitted by Chris Johnson. Video Copyright 2006, Chris Johnson. Used with permission

Brian Lockett
West Camino Cielo, Santa Barbara County, California

Aerospace photographer Brian Lockett photographed the launch from his vantage point near Refugio Pass.

Image of smoke trail from the Delta IV rocket / NROL-22 launch

In this image the smoke trail from the booster's solid rocket motors is in the Earth's shadow near the ground, illuminated by the Sun at higher altitude. Image Copyright 2006, Brian Lockett. Used with permission.

Brian Webb
Southern California

The webmaster took the following photos from a high hill approximately 100 statute miles east-southeast of the launch site. He was one of several people who gathered there for the launch.

Photo of smoke from Delta IV solid rocket motors

This image shows the smoke from the solid rocket motors during the early portion of the first stage burn.

Delta IV rocket leaves a semi-transparent trail

The rocket's liquid fuel first stage engine leaves a semi-transparent trail as the Delta heads downrange following jettison of the spent solid rocket motors.

Image of stage 2 exhaust plume seen during Delta IV rocket / NROL-22 launch

Stage 2 ignition produces a fleeting, but impressive conical exhaust plume.

Photo of high-altitude cloud produced by Delta IV rocket / NROL-22 launch

The exhaust plume from the Delta IV was less impressive than expected. One interesting feature of the launch was an unusual high-altitude cloud possibly created by stage1/stage 2 separation.

Behyar Bakhshandeh
Carlsbad, California

Behyar Bakhshandeh's backyard in Carlsbad, California provided a good side-on view of the launch and its aftermath.

Delta IV rocket trail passes below the Moon and Venus

The Delta IV races downrange and passes below Venus and the Moon. Venus is the white speck above the tip of the rocket trail. Copyright 2006, Behyar Bakhshandeh. Used with permission.

Image of Delta IV rocket trail, the Moon, and Venus following the NROL-22 launch

The aftermath of the launch hangs in the twilight sky. The bright cloud in the left of the image is the same cloud photographed by the webmaster. Also visible is the semi-transparent rocket trail, the Moon, and Venus (between the bright cloud and the Moon). Copyright 2006, Behyar Bakhshandeh. Used with permission.

Fred Bruenjes
San Diego, California

Veteran sky photographer Fred Bruenjes took several images of the launch from a vantage point above San Diego.

Delta IV rocket rises above San Diego

The Delta IV rises above the San Diego skyline.

Photo of semi-transparent trail from the Delta IV rocket during the NROL-22 launch

The rocket climbs, leaving a semi-transparent trail behind it.

Image of Delta IV rocket stage 2 ignition plume

Bruenjes captured this detailed view of the plume from stage 2 ignition.

Photo of cloud produced by Delta IV rocket / NROL-22 launch and Moon

Afterwards, the enigmatic cloud from the launch and the Moon hang in the twilight sky.

Greg Roberts
Cape Town, South Africa

About forty minutes after launch, the Delta IV's second stage and payload rose above the horizon in South Africa and the second stage was re-ignited for three minutes. Later, the second stage hydrogen tank was vented, creating a wedge-shaped cloud. Greg Roberts recorded the vent using a low-light video system.

Image of cloud from second stage hydrogen vent following Delta IV rocket / NROL-22 launch

The cloud of vented hydrogen appears as a triangular smudge this 2-second exposure. Numerous stars are visible in the background as is the time of the photo (UTC) in the lower left. Roberts acquired this image using a 145mm telephoto lens set at f/2.5 and a MINTRON MTV-12V1-EX camera. Image Copyright 2006, Greg Roberts. Used with permission.

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