IQ TopShot: Night light

Test launch off the California coast

March 29, 2021 in Innovation, Defense

Minuteman III missile test launch from the California coast

PHOTOGRAPHER: Christopher Okula, U.S. Space Force

DATE: Feb. 23, 2021

TIME: 11:49 p.m. PST

PLACE: From Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, toward the Pacific Ocean

EVENT: First Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test launch of 2021

U.S. Space Force scientific photographer Christopher Okula was 4,400 feet (1,341 meters) from the launch facility and opened the shutter on his camera five seconds into the flight (to counter overexposure at liftoff) for 104 seconds.

“A Minuteman III begins its flight with a sudden and tremendous roar,” he said. “If I had to compare it to anything else on earth, I’d say it sounds most like a rushing waterfall being poured directly into your ear. The roar fades as the missile climbs, and the silence that grows around you leaves you feeling awestruck and alone.”


  • Weight: 79,432 lbs. (36,030 kg)
  • Top speed: 15,000 mph (24,140 kph)
  • Maximum range: >6,000 mi. (>9,600 km)

Watch the missile launch

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