Trailing a thick column of exhaust, the Space Shuttle Columbia blasted into the twilight morning sky in 2002, its thundering rockets briefly flooding a cloud bank with the light of a false dawn. The event marked the start of the ongoing eleven day mission to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope. The shuttle would later be burned up on re-entry in a tragic 2003 accident, killing all seven of its crew.
In this Sept. 25 photo, a Minotaur 4 rocket carrying the Space Based Space Surveillance satellite blasts off and heads toward orbit at 9:41 p.m., at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The satellite is designed to detect and monitor debris, satellites and other space objects that could be a threat to national security, communications and weather satellites.
The X-37B, A U.S. Air Force space raises concerns about weapons in space. While its exact purpose remains unclear, it joins a host of new space technology that could usher in a new era of space warfare.