UPDATE: 6/4/18: Another launch attempt was scrubbed this morning due to clouds. The next attempt will not happen prior to June 11, subject to range availability.
NASA is scheduled to launch a rocket from the Mid Atlantic coast which will help light up the early morning skies with colorful luminescent clouds on June 3; this launch helps test a new system that supports science studies of the ionosphere and aurora. The launch will occur at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Atlantic coast of Virginia and could be visible from as far north as New York to as far south as the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Back-up launch dates are every day from June 4 through June 6.
During the flight of a two-stage Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket between 4:26am and 4:41am, 10 canisters roughly the size of a can of soda will be deployed into the air 6-12 miles away from the 670-pound main payload. Roughly 4 to 5 and a half minutes later, the canisters will deploy a blue-green and red vapor forming artificial clouds. The vapor tracers are formed through the interaction of barium, strontium, and cupric-oxide. Because these tracers are released at altitudes of 96-124 miles high, NASA says they “pose absolutely no hazard to residents along the Mid-Atlantic coast.”
Ground cameras in Duck, North Carolina, as well as at the Wallops Flight Facility, will be set to view the vapor tracers. According to NASA, clear skies are preferred, but not required, at both sites for the launch to occur.
This is a brief mission; total flight time is expected to be about 8 minutes long. The payload will eventually land in the Atlantic Ocean about 90 miles from Wallops Island; NASA says the payload will not be recovered.
There are many ways to watch this rocket launch. The NASA Visitor Center at Wallops will open at 3:30am on launch day for viewing the flight. Live coverage of the mission is scheduled to begin at 3:45am on the Wallops Ustream site.
NASA’s Sounding Rocket Program is conducted at the agency’s Wallops Flight Facility, which is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Orbital ATK provides mission planning, engineering services and field operations through the NASA Sounding Rocket Operations Contract. NASA’s Heliophysics Division manages the sounding-rocket program for the agency.