OCEAN CITY — Local residents and visitors got a rare Fourth of July fireworks preview this week when NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility made a significant rocket launch visible over the resort area and much of the Eastern seaboard.
Shortly after 11 p.m. on Wednesday, a U.S. Air Force Minotaur 1 rocket trailing bright orange and red flames and a plume of smoke arched its way across the dark sky to the south of the resort area and dissipated to a small white light before disappearing altogether. Shortly after lift-off, the rocket’s booster engines could be seen separating from the Minotaur 1 and burning brightly for a few seconds before fizzling out and falling harmlessly into the ocean below.
The spectacle was reportedly viewed by hundreds of resort area residents and visitors from places just north of Wallops including Chincoteague, Assateauge Island, even the Ocean City Inlet and other places that afforded an unobstructed view of the launch.
The Minotaur 1, carrying into space a critical Department of Defense Operationally Responsive Space office (ORS-1) satellite, is a four-stage rocket that stands about 70-feet tall and around five feet wide. Two stages included refurbished Minuteman II boosters, while the other boosters were developed by the private sector Orbital Sciences Corporation.
Wednesday’s launch of the Mintaur 1 was one of the largest rockets launched from the ever-expanding Wallops facility on the mid-Atlantic coast and was the fourth of its kind launched from Wallops since 2006.
“We are very pleased to continue our support to the U.S. Air Force and the Operationally Responsive Space Office (ORS) with today’s [Wednesday’s] successful launch,” said Bill Wrobel, director of NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.