June 11, 2008 - 1:30 p.m. EDT
At 12:05 p.m. EDT, the Delta II rocket easily lifted the GLAST spacecraft off the launch pad, out of smoke and clouds and into a beautiful Florida sky headed for space.
The second firing of the second-stage engine was confirmed as was successful spacecraft separation. Applause rippled through the launch control center as separation confirmation was received.
GLAST is now on its own with its solar arrays deployed and placed into a circular orbit 350 miles above the Earth, prepared to monitor the universe and the mysterious gamma-ray bursts.
GLAST is a powerful space observatory that will explore the most extreme environments in the universe, and search for signs of new laws of physics and what composes the mysterious dark matter, explain how black holes accelerate immense jets of material to nearly light speed, and help crack the mysteries of the staggeringly powerful explosions known as gamma-ray bursts.
With high sensitivity GLAST is the first imaging gamma-ray observatory to survey the entire sky every day. It will give scientists a unique opportunity to learn about the ever-changing universe at extreme energies. GLAST will detect thousands of gamma-ray sources, most of which will be supermassive black holes in the cores of distant galaxies.