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10 historic images of rocket launches

May 19, 2012, 6:41 a.m.
Delta II rocket carrying NASA's Suomi NPP spacecraft

Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls

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Each is unique

From bottle rockets to full-scale boosters, the math and physics governing a rocket launch are as varied as the rockets themselves. A rocket can be a kind of engine or a vehicle using that engine, and they can use solid or liquid fuels. They can be used to launch astronauts and spacecrafts, or they can be used to launch satellites.

NASA has been launching rockets into space from Cape Canaveral for more than 60 years, but each launch is as unique as its mission. The best time to start a mission depends on a myriad of factors, including target and goals, the type of rocket, and the path the vehicle must take to successfully start the mission.

Varied launch conditions have led to some fantastic images of rockets shedding their earthly coil. As the SpaceX Dragon rocket attempts to become the first private spacecraft to dock at the International Space Station, here are 10 images of rockets at their most exciting moments. Pictured here is a recent launch showing a Delta II rocket carrying NASA's Suomi NPP spacecraft. (Text: Katherine Butler)