The Space Coast came to the Keys, sort of, this week.
The U.S. Air Force's 45th Space Wing, stationed at Patrick Air Force Base in Cape Canaveral, launched a Navy communications satellite aboard a rocket at 6:18 a.m. Wednesday morning.
On its way into orbit, the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket could be seen clearly in the dark dawn skies over the Lower Keys.
"It was bright white, with a white glowing circle around it," said Dale Washam, who saw the rocket fly by from Naval Air Station Key West on Boca Chica. "It eventually left the white streak behind and continued on."
"Once it continued on, it was a perfect circle in shape to me, with the bright white glowing circle around it and no tail nor streak," Washam said.
The payload on the rocket was what the Air Force describes as a "next-generation narrowband tactical satellite communications system, built by Lockheed Martin."
The system works like a "smartphone network in space," according to an Air Force press release.
The system "provides users a global, on-demand, beyond-line-of-sight capability to transmit and receive high-quality voice and mission data on a high-speed Internet Protocol system."
The system uses orbiting satellites "as the equivalent of cell phone towers in space and will connect U.S. forces on ships, in submarines, aircraft and vehicles. It provides the vital link between troops in advanced positions or remote areas and the rest of the Department of Defense military global network."
The military will test the system in December and it is anticipated to be fully operational by 2017.