NASA plans to launch a rocket from its NASA Wallops spaceflight facility on the coast of Virginia this Sunday morning; the pre-dawn launch should be visible across a large part of the Mid Atlantic from North Carolina to New York, with the best potential view over New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, eastern Maryland, and northeastern Virginia.
A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket carrying a Cygnus cargo spacecraft bound for the International Space Station (ISS) is scheduled to launch at 5:50 am on Sunday, November 6. Loaded with more than 8,200 pounds of research, crew supplies like food, and hardware, the Antares rocket topped with Cygnus will leap off Pad 0A on Wallops Island, Virginia.
The Cygnus spacecraft being used for this mission is named the S.S. Sally Ride, in honor of the first American woman in space.
The NASA Visitor’s Center at Wallops will be open for this launch, with gates opening at 3:30 am. It is important to note that the time changes from Eastern Daylight Time to Eastern Standard Time hours before and people should make sure they properly “fall back” the time on their watches and clocks to catch the launch on-time.
Beyond the NASA Visitor Center, there are also great local locations to watch and listen to the roaring rocket as it heads to Space. Viewing locations on Chincoteague Island include Robert Reed Park on Main Street or Beach Road spanning the area between Chincoteague and Assateague Islands. The Virginia, Maryland and Delaware Atlantic beaches also provide good viewing locations.
People can also watch the launch rise in the pre-sunrise skies across a wide part of the Mid Atlantic by simply looking up and in the direction of NASA Wallops to their location. This means people in New Jersey should look to their south while people in North Carolina should look to their north. The rocket will be quickly traveling south and east over the open waters of the Atlantic.
NASA TV will also cover the launch live; they’ll begin live programming from Wallops starting at 5:30 am. A pre-launch briefing is also scheduled for Saturday, November 5, at 1 pm ET.
Many research investigations are launching to the ISS as part of this mission. Among them are studies to explore the 3D biological printing of human tissue in space, a study taking advantage of microgravity to better understand catastrophic mudflows that can occur after wildfires, an investigation to see how microgravity influences ovary function, and an experiment that studies if changes plants make when they grow in microgravity are passed on in their seeds to their next generation.
While this rocket is heading up, sky-watchers are waiting for another rocket to come down. Before Sunday’s scheduled Antares launch, an out-of-control Chinese rocket is due to tumble back down to Earth. It is possible the rocket could impact the United States but it is too soon as of publication time to know where or when exactly it will occur. Odds as of publication time favor the eastern United States sometime early on Friday.