Wallops Island Launches Second Rocket In Four Months
BERLIN - Against the backdrop of a crystal clear, starry night, the second rocket launch in four months from NASA's Wallops Island Spaceport climbed through the sky and into orbit Tuesday, providing hundreds of local residents, visitors to the area and curiosity seekers with an early morning light show.
The latest launch from Wallops Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) went off without a hitch shortly before 3 a.m. on Tuesday morning after two postponements. The launch was originally scheduled for last Saturday, but was scrubbed because of the lingering effects of the Nor'easter that lingered over the area for much of last week. Rescheduled again for Monday morning, the launch of the Air Force Minotaur 1 was moved back another day to Tuesday after some minor technical problems.
Hundreds of onlookers crowded into the launch viewing areas at Chincoteague and the south end of Assateague Island and dozens more viewed the spectacle from the Ocean City Inlet and other areas all over northern Worcester County. The red glow of the rocket's flame and the plume of white smoke that trailed it were reportedly seen throughout the local area and much of the mid-Atlantic region.
The Minotaur 1, measuring 70 feet tall and five-feet wide, carried NASA's Missile Defense Agency's Near Field Infrared Experiment, or NFIRE payload, into orbit. The NFIRE test is aimed at perfecting a sensor system that could track and destroy enemy missiles, although it is primarily designed to gather data on exhaust plumes from other rocket launches conducted by NASA.
Tuesday's launch follows a similar launch of a Minotaur 1 rocket from the MARS spaceport last December. That Minotaur 1 launch carried the Air Force Research Laboratory's TacSat-2 satellite into orbit.
The back-to-back launches signal an increased amount of activity at the nearby Wallops facility for NASA. Although the rocket launches are clearly the most visible evidence of the increased activity at the facility, there is much going on behind the scene that is creating more jobs across the Lower Shore including Worcester.
NASA officials this week said they were pleased with the success of Tuesday's mission and hope to carry out similar missions at Wallops in the near future.
'This launch again demonstrates the unique capabilities of the Wallops Flight Facility, which includes the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, to efficiently support the placing of satellites into Earth's orbit,' said Dr. John Campbell, director of the NASA Wallops Flight Facility. 'Working with the Air Force, MDA and their contractors, the preparation for this launch and the launch itself went very smoothly.'