WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (WJZ) — After weather postponed it several times, a rocket launch from Wallops Island is expected Wednesday night and will be visible across the Eastern seaboard.
In a tweet, NASA said the weather is looking better for a launch attempt Wednesday night.READ MORE: COVID-19 In Maryland: Hospitalizations & Positivity Rate Decline Saturday
The launch window is scheduled for 8:06 p.m. and will stay open for 40 minutes. There are backup dates through May 16.
LAUNCH SCRUBBED ❗ Tonight's launch of the KiNET-X sounding rocket has been scrubbed due to cloudy skies in Bermuda and Wallops. The next launch opportunity will be no earlier than May 12, at 8:06 p.m. EDT. Backup days run through May 16.
— NASA Wallops (@NASA_Wallops) May 12, 2021
The NASA suborbital sounding rocket is a part of a mission, KiNETic-scale energy and momentum transport eXperiment or KiNet-X, to explore energy transport in space.
The launch is expected to provide a brief light show for residents across the eastern United States to the Mississippi River and Bermuda.READ MORE: ‘I’m Terrified’ At Least 20 People Shot This Week In Baltimore; Police Identify Victim of Deadly Mass Shooting
There’s a 60% chance of favorable cloud conditions.
“A four-stage Black Brant XII rocket will be used for the mission that includes the release of barium vapor that will form two green-violet clouds that may be visible for about 30 seconds,” NASA said in a release. “The barium vapor is not harmful to the environment or public health.”
NASA will study a very fundamental problem in space plasmas, namely, how are energy and momentum transported between different regions of space that are magnetically connected?
The vapor will be released for 9 minutes and 30 seconds to around 10 minutes after launch when the rocket is 217-249 miles altitude over the Atlantic Ocean and 540-560 miles downrange from Wallops
Once the vapor is released, the vapor clouds will quickly ionize and take on a violet color.
“The ionized portion of the cloud becomes tied to the magnetic field lines and diffuses parallel to the field lines but not perpendicular to it. In the mid-Atlantic region latitudes, the field lines are inclined by about 45 degrees to the horizontal, so the violet clouds stretch out in a slanted orientation and look more like short trails than a cloud. Because the motion of the neutral portion of the clouds is not constrained by the magnetic field lines, they spread out more quickly and become too thin to see with the naked eye much sooner than the ionized component,” NASA said.
In general, the human eye does not see violet colors very well in darkness. The KiNET-X clouds will therefore be more difficult for the casual observer to see than some of the previous vapor missions launched from Wallops.MORE NEWS: 12-Year-Old Girl Hospitalized After Baltimore Hit & Run
You can watch live coverage of the launch on NASA’s website.