Update: August 10, 2021 4:43pm: Due to a technical issue that is being resolved, the launch has been pushed back a little bit to 6:01 pm.
A rocket scheduled for blast-off from the Mid Atlantic this week is expected to be visible for hundreds of miles around the Virginia spaceport it is launching from. The 16th resupply mission of the International Space Station by Northrup Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft is currently targeted to lift off on Tuesday, August 10th at 5:56 pm from Pad-0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia.
The Cygnus spacecraft will launch atop an Antares rocket. Loaded with more than 8,200 pounds of research, crew supplies and hardware, the spacecraft has been dubbed the “SS Ellison Onizuka” in honor of the first Asian American-astronaut. Onizuka was born in Kealakekua, Hawaii and successfully flew into space on the Space Shuttle Discovery in mission 51-C. He died in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986 while serving as a mission specialist for that mission 51-L. He was the first Asian American and the first person of Japanese origin to reach space. To celebrate his honor, the Big Island of Hawaii named Kona’s airport “Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole.”
If the launch occurs on-time, the Cygnus spacecraft will arrive at the space station on Thursday, August 12 at about 6:10 am.
Each of these resupply missions to the station delivers scientific investigations in the areas of biology and biotechnology, Earth and space science, physical sciences, and technology development and demonstrations. This Cygnus carries experiments that demonstrate 3D printing with dust, use engineered tissue to study muscle loss, and analyze growth of slime mold.
Cygnus also will carry a new mounting bracket that astronauts will attach to the port side of the station’s backbone truss during a spacewalk planned for late August. The mounting bracket will enable the installation of one of the next pair of new solar arrays at a later date.
NASA was planning to open its visitors center to guests to observe the rocket launch in-person, but due to rising cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19, NASA decided to keep the center closed. However, people from New York City to the Outer Banks will be able to see the rocket as it lifts off into the sky, weather permitting.
While the visitors center will be closed at NASA Wallops, there are plenty of outdoor areas near the launch facility that will be open for outdoor viewing. 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. The beach at the Assateague Island National Seashore/Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge will not be open during the launch.
Those unable to see the launch in-person or outside can watch it online or on TV. Live coverage of the rocket launch will begin at approximately 1pm on the IBM Video site that base uses. Launch coverage will also occur on NASA TV beginning at 5:30 pm. NASA TV is available on line and on TV.