NASA is planning to launch a rocket from the NASA Wallops spaceport in Virginia tonight; if clouds and rain clear out in time, 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.
The Sporadic-E ElectroDynamics Demonstration mission, or SpEED Demon, is set to launch sometime tonight in a launch window that is open from 9 pm to 1 am. 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.
SpEED Demon will launch on a 40-foot tall Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket . If it is unable to launch tonight due to weather or other technical concerns, NASA will try again each night from August 23 to August 27.
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.”