BERLIN – Residents and visitors to the area will have the
opportunity to view another significant rocket launch from NASA’s Wallops
Island spaceport early Monday morning with a mission that was originally
scheduled for tomorrow but was pushed back because of the lingering effects of
this week’s Nor’easter.
The latest launch from Wallops’ Mid-Atlantic Regional
Spaceport (MARS) was for months scheduled for Saturday, April 21, but high
winds and unfavorable conditions left over from the storm that moved through
the area last weekend and lingered all week has moved the launch date.
“The weather this week has caused some major issues with
this scheduled launch,” said Wallops spokesman Keith Koehler. “We had issues
with high winds that prevented us from going through all of the pre-launch
tests. We’re back on schedule and should be able to launch early Monday morning
without any more delays.”
The launch of the Air Force Minotaur 1 rocket, scheduled
for Monday morning shortly after 3 a.m., should be visible throughout the area
and much of the eastern half of the country. The spectacle could be seen from
several states away when NASA launched a similar rocket from the MARS pad at
Wallops in December.
“The last time around, we had calls from people as far
away as Detroit and Ontario who reported seeing the launch,” said Koehler. “And
that launch was at daybreak. With the 3 a.m. launch schedule, this should
provide even greater opportunities for viewing.”
In December, hundreds of curiosity seekers crowded into
the state and federal parks on Assateague and Chincoteague for a first hand
look at the successful rocket launch. Hundreds more viewed the launch from the
Ocean City Inlet, which provided the perfect opportunity to photograph the
rocket soaring into space from Wallops.
“The same situation should occur on Monday and the
opportunity to view it and photograph it could be even better because it’s
going up in the middle of the night,” said Koehler.
The rocket being launched on Monday is an Air Force
Minotaur 1, which is 70 feet tall and about five feet wide. It will carry
NASA’s Missile Defense Agency’s Near Field Infrared Experiment, or NFIRE,
payload. 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.
planned launch at Wallops early Monday morning follows a similar launch at the
facility in December, which was the largest since 1996. After Monday’s launch,
two more are scheduled for 2007 with additional launches proposed for 2008.