It kind of amazes me how fast the rockets clear our atmosphere. It is really very thin. I don't care how many times I watch a launch it blows my mind that they're clear of the friction of the air in a matter of hundreds of seconds but there is a lot of energy left to be expended before they're free of the earth's gravity.
Here's a summary of the mission by Phil Plait.
Photos up on Flickr by NASA
Some rocket specifics are here.
This mission was launched aboard an Atlas V 551 vehicle configuration, which includes a 5-meter diameter RUAG Space payload fairing. The booster for this mission was powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine along with five Aerojet solid rocket motors. The Centaur upper stage was powered by a single Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RL-10A engine.
|Screen grab showing big faring around around the spacecraft and the external solid rocket boosters|
|The angle of this shot from the VAB roof makes it look like disappeared. |
It's going away from the camera obscured by the smoke.