Liftoff! Atlas V Clears the Launch Pad with NASA’s InSight Spacecraft

he United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off with NASA's InSight spacecraft, seen through a thick fog blanketing Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off with NASA’s InSight spacecraft, seen through a thick fog blanketing Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Image credit: NASA TV

Booster ignition and liftoff of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at 7:05 a.m. EDT (4:05 a.m. PDT), from Space Launch Complex 3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, carrying NASA’s InSight spacecraft. The rocket is on its way, carrying NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) to begin its six¬† month voyage to Mars.

About four minutes into flight, a series of key events occurs in rapid succession: Atlas booster engine cutoff, separation of the booster from the Centaur upper stage, ignition of the Centaur main engine for its first of two burns, then jettison of the payload fairing.