The last time there was a rocket launch at Wallops Island, Virginia it made for quite a spectacular sight throughout the Mid-Atlantic region and there is another opportunity this evening for one more great show. An Orbital Sciences Minotaur I rocket is scheduled to lift-off tonight at 7:30 PM from NASA’s Wallops Island Facility and the weather conditions are looking quite favorable as the current gusty winds are likely to diminish by early tonight and the skies are mostly clear. The nighttime launch could light up the sky for millions of observers along a wide swath of the east coast from Maine to Florida and inland as far as Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky according to the Orbital Sciences visibility map (above).
The launch will be the second of a Minotaur from Wallops in the last three months and this one will set a record of 29 satellites launched from a single rocket. The primary payload is the Air Force Space Test Program Satellite-3 spacecraft, a mission that will measure different aspects of the space environment. The launch also will be part of the FAA’s certification process for the Minotaur rocket.
In addition, the rocket will deploy 28 “CubeSats” or nano-satellites and carry two non-separating tertiary payloads. Among the “CubeSats” being launched is TJ3Sat, the first satellite built by high school students to be launched into space (Thomas Jefferson High School in northern Virginia). The Minotaur I is a four stage rocket capable of boosting up to 1300 pounds into low-Earth orbit.
The launch will be carried live at this web site beginning at 6:30 PM: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-tv-wallops. In the Philly and New York City metro regions look near the horizon in the southern sky at launch time and, if in the DC area, look to the southeastern sky.