An Alpha Rocket launches from Vandenberg Space Force Base on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023.

An Alpha Rocket launches from Vandenberg Space Force Base on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023. (LaShanda Swancy/Firefly Aerospace/Facebook)

(Tribune News Service) — There is an expensive reason for the zigzag lines of thin clouds in the Fresno skies that was spotted by many Thursday.

An Alpha rocket was launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base by the startup company Firefly Aerospace, soaring through the skies just after sunset as part of a responsive space mission called Victus Nox.

The rocket’s vapor trail left that squiggly line in the sky — seen in Fresno and as far as Arizona — and leaving many curious about what they saw.

“Does anyone know what this is?” a person on wrote.

According to the Firefly Aerospace website, the goal of the Victus Nox program is to demonstrate the United States’ capability to rapidly respond to on-orbit needs during a conflict or in response to a national security threat.

“For decades, the promise of a faster and more responsive launch capability has seduced military strategists who have looked for ways to get satellites to orbit quickly in response to adversary threats or intelligence demands,” reads a story. “One such effort is Victus Nox.”

In a news release sent by Firefly space in August, the Victus Nox space mission never has been done before.

The rocket reportedly had a price tag of $15 million, according to

“The U.S.’s ability to rapidly respond to on-orbit needs is critical to our national defense, particularly in today’s evolving space environment,” Space Force Lt. Col. MacKenzie Birchenough said in the Firefly Aerospace news release. “The accelerated build time the team demonstrated for VICTUS NOX, combined with the demanding launch and on-orbit goals, exemplifies our strong commitment to preserving our nation’s dominance and ability to freely operate in the space domain.”

©2023 The Fresno Bee.


Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now