WALLOPS — Another major launch from the Wallops Island Flight Facility is set for Saturday afternoon with Orbital Sciences expected to send up an Antares rocket carrying needed supplies to the International Space Station.
The launch, which was postponed earlier this week, is tentatively set for 1:14 p.m. on Saturday and, weather permitting, should be visible across the mid-Atlantic region with best vistas of the rocket streaming across the Saturday afternoon sky in areas close to Wallops including Assateague and Ocean City. The viewing area ranges from the Carolinas to New York and as far west as central Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The cargo craft will carry roughly 3,300 pounds of supplies to the ISS, including science experiments, experiment hardware, spare parts and crew provisions. If the launch goes as scheduled, the Cygnus cargo spacecraft is expected to arrive at the International Space Station sometime on Tuesday when it will be grabbed by the station’s robotic arms and unloaded.
Saturday’s planned Antares launch is the third of the kind sent up to the space station by Orbital Sciences from Wallops. The first was launched last Sept. 19 and provided a spectacular mid-morning show for viewers on the ground across the Lower Shore. The second Antares launch from Wallops carrying needed supplies to the International Space Station went up in January and Saturday’s planned launch should be no less spectacular as the Antares begins its 17,000-mile-plus trip to rendezvous with the space station.
There has been a significant increase in the frequency and size of the launches from Wallops in recent years as the Lower Shore facility has become a focal point of NASA’s space program in the wake of the dismantling of the old space shuttle program.
In advance of Saturday’s launch, marine notifications of the hazard area have been posted for a vast area of open ocean adjacent to Wallops and commercial and recreational boaters are urged to heed the notifications. The marine notices and identified hazard area are available on the Wallops Island Flight Facility website and boaters can also get information by monitoring Marine Channel 12.
On a Saturday afternoon in the middle of the summer, there will likely be considerable traffic in the area, particularly with the Ocean City Tuna Tournament going on this weekend. While no problems are anticipated, the marine notices should be heeded during the launch window. Just last week, a much smaller sounding rocket launched from Wallops crashed harmlessly into the sea just 19 seconds after liftoff.