WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

NASA prepares Saturday launch from Virginia spaceport

Posted February 19, 2021 1:07 p.m. EST
Updated February 19, 2021 5:31 p.m. EST

A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket carrying a Cygnus resupply spacecraft is in the vertical launch position on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad-0A, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Northrop Grumman’s 15th contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station will deliver about 8,000 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. The CRS-15 Cygnus spacecraft is named after NASA mathematician, Katherine Johnson, a Black woman who time and again broke through barriers of gender and race. The launch is scheduled 12:36 p.m. EST, Feb. 20, 2021. Photo Credit: (NASA/Patrick Black)

The latest launch weather forecast issued for Saturday's commercial resupply launch to the International Space Station shows 75% favorable conditions, with ground winds and cumulus clouds being the main concerns. The forecast improves to 95% the following day.

Packed with approximately 8,000 pounds of research, crew supplies and hardware, the cargo spacecraft is set to launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's eastern shore on Saturday at 12:36 p.m. EST. Live coverage of the launch will air on NASA Television beginning at 12 p.m. EST.

The Antares rocket is rolled out ot the Wallops Island Virginia launchpad ahead of the NG CRS-15 mission

Northrop Grumman continued its tradition of naming its Cygnus spacecraft after individuals who have played a pivotal role in human spaceflight with the announcement that it would be honoring former NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, who died last year at the age of 101.  Johnson, whose story was included in the “Hidden Figures” book and film, performed the trajectory analysis for Alan Shepard’s May 1961 Freedom 7 mission, the nation's first human spaceflight.  During her 33 years with NASA, her analysis contributed to the Apollo through Space Shuttle programs. She was famously called upon by astronaut John Glenn to validate, by hand, calculations produced by newly installed computers.

The launch may be visible as skies clear across eastern portions of North Carolina but will be more difficult to spot in the midday Sun further west. Look low on the northeastern and eastern horizon. The rocket will remain over the horizon, hidden by the Earth's curvature for several minutes after launch.

In-person events at Wallops Flight Center visitor center are not being held. NASA instead encourages registering for their free Virtual Guest Program which includes a passport book you can print at home and "stamps" emailed to you after each launch or other event.

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