OCEAN CITY- Local residents and visitors to the area could get a Fourth of July fireworks preview next week when NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility on the Virginia coast just south of Assateague makes a significant rocket launch expected to be visible across much of the Eastern seaboard.
Wallops is scheduled to launch a U.S. Air Force Minotaur 1 rocket carrying a critical Department of Defense Operationally Responsive Space office (ORS-1) satellite next Tuesday, June 28, between 8:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. According to Wallops officials, depending on cloud cover and other factors, the launch should be visible across much of the Eastern U.S. from New York to North Carolina and as far inland as West Virginia and all of Pennsylvania.
Local residents and visitors to the resort area should have a front row seat for the launch, providing a precursor of sorts for the Fourth of July fireworks less than a week later. According to Wallops officials, the best places locally to watch the launch are from the Assateague National Seashore and Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, although the spectacle should be visible from the beaches in Ocean City as well as Virginia Beach.
The Minotaur 1 is a four-stage rocket that stands about 70 feet tall and around five feet wide. Two stages include refurbished Minuteman II boosters, while the other boosters were developed by the private sector Orbital Sciences Corporation. Tuesday’s scheduled launch of the Minotaur 1 is one of the largest rockets launched from the ever-expanding Wallops facility on the mid-Atlantic coast and will be the fourth of its kind launched from Wallops since 2006. The last Minotaur launch from Wallops in May 2009 was clearly visible throughout the mid-Atlantic region including Ocean City and Assateague.
The ORS-1 is the Operational Responsive Space Office’s first operational satellite. Rapidly developing and fielding ORS-1 is an important step to demonstrate the capability to meet persistent war-fighter needs on operationally relevant timelines. Should weather become an issue on Tuesday, the back-up launch dates are set for June 29 to July 10.