NASA will try again tonight, Tuesday, August 23, to launch a Malemute rocket from its NASA Wallops Flight Facility on the coast of Virginia. The first launch window for the mission occured last night, but science conditions weren’t right for launch. As such, Monday’s attempt was scrubbed so that scientists could try again today.
Tonight’s launch window is open from 9 pm to 1 am. As long as conditions at the spaceport are good and atmospheric conditions are ripe for scientific exploration, the mission will proceed as planned. However, if it doesn’t, NASA will try again Wednesday, with back-up dates possible through to August 27.
With the weather expected to cooperate better tonight than last night, the rocket could be visible in portions of central and southern New Jersey, eastern Maryland, southeastern Pennsylvania, all of Delaware, eastern Virginia, and northeastern North Carolina.
This launch is for the Sporadic-E ElectroDynamics Demonstration mission, or SpEED Demon. The rocket will fly new instrumentation along with heritage instruments that have flown on other sounding rocket missions, but not together. The SpEED Demon instruments will be further improved based on results from this launch and will subsequently fly on a science mission targeted for summer 2024 from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
While the main purpose of SpEED Demon is to test the instrument package, NASA says scientists are hopeful that they may be able to measure sporadic-E layers in the ionosphere, the electrified upper portion of Earth’s atmosphere that’s made of ionized gas called plasma.
SpEED Demon will launch on a 40-foot tall Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket . NASA’s Terrier Improved Malemute Rocket is a high performance two-stage vehicle used for payloads weighing less than 400 pounds. The first stage booster consists of a Terrier MK 12 Mod 1 rocket motor with four 340 square inch fin panels arranged in a cruciform configuration.
The NASA Wallops Visitor Center will also be open to the public beginning at 8pm for launch viewing.
NASA Wallop’s YouTube Channel will also stream the event, with online coverage beginning at 8:40 pm.
“Sporadic-E layers are like patchy, invisible clouds of dense plasma that sometimes disrupt radio communications,” said Aroh Barjatya, SpEED Demon principal investigator and director of the Space and Atmospheric Instrumentation Lab at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida.
“These layers are seen throughout the globe, with those at the Earth’s mid-latitudes increasing in abundance and activity during summer,” said Barjatya. “Having a complete understanding of them is necessary to model them accurately and predict their occurrence.”
While scientists will have their eye on the data coming in from the mission, spectators on the ground will peer into the night sky looking for the rising streak of light from the rocket.