Florida’s big endurance races are known for plenty of fireworks on and off-track, but they’re usually not from military satellites. Today, the United Launch Alliance is sending the $424 million Delta IV WGS-9 satellite into orbit from nearby Cape Canaveral, Florida, visible from the classic endurance race.
WGS stands for Wideband Global SATCOM, as it’s a tactical communications satellite for the United States Air Force, National Reconnaissance Office, NASA and other agencies, according to the Kennedy Space Center.
Technical difficulties prevented the rocket from launching earlier during twilight, so when it finally launched under full darkness, it was easy to spot north of Sebring, when looking towards Turn 3.
Fortunately, the launch happened while the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship’s 12 Hours of Sebring was under its fifth full-course yellow flag of the day from the No. 27 Dream Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 stopping on course. The television crews had ample time to cut away from the recovery effort and the cars circulating on track to feature the solid rocket boosters falling off above.
Here’s the livestream for the satellite launch if you’d like a closer look, which is now available for replay.
The launch was ultimately declared successful, with the launch control broadcast citing rocket speeds of 4,000 mph at one point, humbling even the fastest cars on track for this lap-record-breaking year at Sebring.
According to NASA, spacecraft have to reach at least 25,000 mph to enter orbit, so we’ve reached out to the ULA crew to ask exactly how fast the rocket went tonight—just to make the entire population of Sebring blush a bit. We will update this post if we hear back.