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

Minuteman III Missile / Glory Trip 180GM Launch

2006 May 20

This series of photos was taken during the rare dusk launch of a Minuteman III strategic missile from Vandenberg AFB on 2002 September 19. Minuteman III test launches almost always occur during the middle of the night or middle of the day.

However, this test launch, referred to as Glory Trip 180GM, was scheduled for late afternoon and ended up being delayed until evening twilight, resulting in optimum conditions for a fine visual display. The event was seen across much of the American Southwest and was captured by a security camera on a farm in eastern Utah near the Colorado state line.

The Minuteman sent one or more unarmed reentry vehicles (warheads) to an impact area in the central Pacific.

Minuteman III lifts-off

The Minuteman climbs rapidly after leaving its silo.

Minuteman III exhaust plume begins to expand

The exhaust plume begins to expand as the vehicle climbs.

Minuteman III exhaust plume continues to expand

The exhaust plume continues to expand and lobes resembling flower petals were visible.

Minuteman III exhaust plume reaches maximum size

The plume reaches its maximum size.

Minuteman III exhaust plume begins to fade

The plume begins to fade as a vehicle upper stage (bright spot) continues to burn.

Minuteman III launch aftermath

After the Minuteman disappeared, an iridescent, glowing cloud was visible high in the west.

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