WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Rocket launch visible over eastern NC

Posted July 12, 2014
Updated July 13, 2014

Jason Santillan shared these photos of the Antares rocket barely visible after launch from Virginia.

NASA launched an Antares rocket Sunday from the Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia, and the flight path was briefly visible to residents of eastern North Carolina under clear blue skies.

The rocket propelled a Cygnus spacecraft  acked with 3,668 pounds of supplies for the six astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). That cargo includes:

  • 1684 pounds of crew supplies including food
  • 783 pounds of hardware for the crew’s health care, and ongoing
  • Maintenance of the station’s structure, electrical and thermal control systems.
  • 18 pounds of computing, photo and television equipment
  • 87 pounds of equipment to support spacewalks
  • 721 pounds of science and research equipment

Among that payload are science experiments created by students, including some from North Carolina.

An experiment created by an 11-member team from Mendenhall Middle School in Greensboro will investigate how calcium sulfate crystals grown in space differ from those grown on Earth.

Their investigation builds upon previous findings that jellyfish born in space lack the ability to sense direction after returning to Earth. "We wondered if the same thing would happen to humans born in space," according to the team’s proposal. This is Guilford County Schools’ fourth Student Spaceflight Experiments Program flight.

The launch was visible up and down the East Coast including as far west as Raleigh, where the rocket was low on the horizon. Those closer to the coast got a better view of the rocket higher in the sky. At Kitty Hawk the rocket reached about 20º above the horizon.

The rocket’s path matches that of the International Space Station traveling from the northwest to the southeast. Initially, the Cygnus spacecraft will travel in the same plane as the ISS but in a lower orbit. The spacecraft will spend about three days raising that orbit to catch up with the ISS bringing it within about 2.5 miles of the station. Cygnus will slowly approach to within 40 feet of the station where astronauts grapple it with the robotic arm and berth it to the Harmony node of the station.

The ISS will next be visible in our skies:

  • Tuesday 5:22 a.m. from the southwest lasting 6 minutes
  • On Wednesday, the ISS will exit the Earth’s shadow at 4:34 a.m. in the south and travel to the southeast over 4 minutes
  • The next evening appearance of the ISS will during the first few days of August.

Tony Rice is a volunteer in the NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador program and software engineer at Cisco Systems. You can follow him on twitter @rtphokie.



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  • midnightclay Jul 12, 2014

    Waste of Tax payers money

  • ifoughtthelaw Jul 12, 2014

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    Agreed......there's nothing out there but space......but I'd rather spend my money on this than another entitlement program which is exactly where it would end up....at least I get some form of entertainment out of the space program.

  • saturn5 Jul 13, 2014

    The scientific experiments being done in microgravity on the ISS can't be done anywhere else. It may not deliver a new electronic toy to Best Buy in time for Christmas but the research there helps advance medicine, materials science among others.

  • StuckHere Jul 13, 2014

    I looked NE at 12:52pm and I saw it streak across the sky...that was pretty cool!!

  • Rod Runner Jul 13, 2014
    user avatar

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    And do you know how many day to day items we use that we have to thank NASA and the space program for?

    One of them is how you are even reading this in the first place, the computer. Or the plastic the computer is held in. Or some of the medicines they were able to research in microgravity that help treat people you love and know.

    NASA's budget is tiny compared to most other things that tax payer money is spent on. And NASA has the best return on the money.

    How much of a return on investment do we get on Social Security? Welfare? The Military? The NSA? CIA? The War on Drugs? Imprisoning minor drug offenders?

    All of those things cost many times more than any money that has been spent on space exploration.

  • saturn5 Jul 13, 2014

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    To put NASA's budget in perspective, remember the TARP bailout in 2008? That one bill was more than every penny ever spent by NASA since the agency was created in 1958. Every paycheck, building, rocket and mission combined cost less than TARP. NASA's budget is about half a penny on the dollar.

  • LocalYokel Jul 14, 2014

    Awesome article WRAL and amazing concepts. I liked reading the details of the flight and the pictures. Wish I had seen/heard the rocket myself.

    Please produce more science reporting and less sports reporting.

  • Trisha Davis Jul 14, 2014
    user avatar

    We're never going to live on Mars or the moon so NASA should be a budget cut.

  • iopsyc Jul 14, 2014

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    You wont, others might. Even if they don't the work NASA does helps people right here on Earth.

  • Itsmyopinion67 Jul 14, 2014

    NASA works on muslim outreach now. It's going really well too....