OCEAN CITY – Perhaps providing further evidence of a growing presence at Wallops Island, along the coast just south of Assateague, NASA last weekend conducted a significant rocket launch visible in much of the mid-Atlantic area, as part of a joint training exercise with the U.S. Navy.
Shortly after 1 a.m. last Saturday, residents and visitors to the resort area still awake were treated to a rare spectacle when the Terrier-Oriole sub-orbital rocket arched its way across the Delmarva sky and reached its peak altitude before falling harmlessly into the ocean.
According to Wallops officials, the launch was visible throughout a wide swath of Delmarva from Delaware to as far south as North Carolina.
“It was a great launch and should have been visible throughout much of the region, although I’m not sure how many people were up at that hour to witness it,” said Wallops spokesman Keith Koehler this week. “It wasn’t crystal clear and it might have been hazy in some areas, but many people in the area probably saw a pretty cool show.”
The rocket was launched as part of a Navy exercise off the mid-Atlantic coast. Three U.S. Second Fleet ships, including the U.S.S. Monterrey, the U.S.S. Ramage and the U.S.S. Gonzalez, converged off the Atlantic coast just south of Assateague to test their tracking systems for the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system. All three successfully tracked the sub-orbital Terrier Oriole rocket launched from Wallops early last Saturday morning.
All three ships were able to successfully track the target missile, with the Monterrey and the Ramage, both Aegis destroyers, providing simulated target solutions that would have resulted in a successful interception of the rocket had it been a real threat. No missiles were fired from the ships during the launch because it was simply a simulated training exercise.
“The whole exercise went very well,” said Koehler. “The Navy was able to accomplish everything it hoped to with the launch and its simulated responses to a real threat, and we were able to successfully launch another significant rocket at Wallops.”
Koehler said the training exercise was just one of many planned off the coast of the Atlantic involving rocket launches from Wallops.
“We are looking forward to working with the Navy on similar exercises in the future,” he said. “Because of our natural proximity to a vast majority of the Atlantic fleet in Norfolk, it makes perfect sense to continue our great working relationship with future launches.”