WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Virginia launch visible from North Carolina

Posted October 27, 2014
Updated October 28, 2014

The Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, is seen on launch Pad-0A during sunrise, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014, at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The Antares will launch with the Cygnus spacecraft filled with over 5,000 pounds of supplies for the International Space Station, including science experiments, experiment hardware, spare parts, and crew provisions. The Orbital-3 mission is Orbital Sciences' third contracted cargo delivery flight to the space station for NASA.  Launch is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 27 at 6:45 p.m. EDT.  Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

The launch of an Antares rocket bound for the International Space Station is expected to be visible shortly after sunset on Tuesday.

Monday's launch attempt was scrubbed due to an errant sailboat drifting into the danger area near the launch pad. Warning areas are identified a week or more in advance of the launch by NASA, the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers.

The next launch window opens Tuesday at 6:22:38 p.m. and will hopefully be more boat-free. However, the additional light in the sky will make the launch more challenging to see, still worth a look if you've got access to a clear northeastern horizon or can put a couple of stories between you and the ground.

We also have another six minute long ISS pass to look for at Tuesday beginning at 7:37 p.m. from the northwest. The station will reach 25º above the horizon.

The rocket will carry a Cygnus spacecraft and its nearly 5,000 pounds of science, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbiting laboratory.

Among the science experiments aboard this flight is one that will use high-resolution video and image analysis of the atmosphere to learn about the size, density and chemical properties of meteoroid dust.

Scientists will use the data to improve our understanding of how the planets formed. Long-term measurements may also help spot previously unseen meteor showers.

To see the launch, look to the northeastern horizon beginning at 6:22 p.m. NASA’s free “Whats Up at Wallops” app for Android and iPhone/iPad has a compass that will help point you in the direction of the launch pad.

The curvature of the Earth will hide the rocket’s path from view here in central North Carolina for the first three minutes of flight. For a little more than a minute, the exhaust of the first stage will be visible above the horizon in the dusky sky.

After launch, Cygnus will continue ascending toward the station through the remainder of the week. On Sunday, Nov. 2, astronauts aboard the ISS will capture the spacecraft with the robotic arm and attach it to the station. Over the next month Cygnus’ role will change from cargo craft to orbiting dumpster. On Dec. 3, the hatch will be closed and Cygnus, along with about 3,000 pounds of trash, will safely burn up over the South Pacific.

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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  • busyb97 Oct 28, 2014

    Wow...didn't see the launch in the sky, but we were watching the live feed as it blew up. Didn't realize it blew up until got back to the house and saw on WRAL. interesting! Quite the fireball though.

  • busyb97 Oct 27, 2014

    They should send that boater the bill for the scrubbed launch.

    But I'm kind of glad I didn't miss it! We should be able to catch it...hopefully better than the solar eclipse last week though. ;-) That didn't work out so well.

  • Tony Rice Oct 27, 2014
    user avatar

    Launch window opens Tuesday at 6:22:38 p.m. for 10 minutes. ISS bound flights have very small windows they must launch within because they've got to catch up with the station traveling over 17k mph!

  • Erika Phipps Oct 27, 2014
    user avatar

    Rescheduled for 6:22 tomorrow, October 28.

  • anonemoose Oct 27, 2014


  • Progressiveredneck Oct 27, 2014

    I didn't see the rocket but I was able to show my granddaughters the space station moving across the sky.

  • Bubba Jim Oct 27, 2014
    user avatar

    launch was scrubbed because of a boat down range in the flight path....

  • Charles Boyer Oct 27, 2014
    user avatar

    The launch was scrubbed for today. Hopefully the weather will be good for the next attempt.

  • jmcdow2792 Oct 27, 2014

    Hope I can see it in Angier. Saw the shuttle launch one time. That was awesome.

  • Knock Oct 27, 2014

    This is going to be hard to spot in Raleigh. You need to find someplace with a completely unobstructed view to the northeast. See nasaspaceflight for status updates on the launch.