Major Wallops Launch Set For Sunday

OCEAN CITY — Local residents and visitors on Sunday evening could have a front row seat for what should be quite a spectacle with a major rocket launch from NASA’s nearby Wallops Island Flight Facility scheduled.

NASA and its private-sector partner Northrup Grumman is expected to launch the Antares rocket on Sunday morning in at roughly 5:39 p.m. The Antares rocket will be carrying the Cygnus spacecraft, which will be delivering roughly 8,000 pounds of cargo including supplies and equipment to the International Space Station.

The Antares measures about 131 feet tall, or roughly the equivalent of a 13-story building, and it’s the largest rocket launched from the Wallops Island Flight Facility. Depending on a variety of factors including the weather, the launch is expected to be visible across much of the eastern U.S. from South Carolina to Massachusetts and as far west as Ohio.

With the Wallops Island Flight Facility just about 30 miles south of Ocean City, Assateague and the rest of Worcester County, residents and visitors in the resort area should have perhaps the best view of the spectacle. When NASA last launched at Antares rocket from Wallops in November, thousands gathered around the Inlet in Ocean City and at Assateague Island to watch the rocket arc its way across the sky.

The Antares rocket and its cargo bound for the International Space Station was rolled out to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport launch this week and is on target for the Sunday evening launch. The mid-week forecast for Sunday predicts clear skies, but if the mission is scrubbed for any reason on Sunday, the next available launch window is Monday at around 5:15 p.m.

A major launch from Wallops is always met with anticipation for many in the resort area and across the Lower Shore. The last successful Antares launch carrying the Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station went up in November.

Sunday’s planned Antares launch will be the first resupply mission to the International Space Station in 2020. The Cygnus spacecraft is expected to reach the ISS by around 4:30 a.m. eastern standard time on Tuesday. It is expected to remain at the space station until May.

The Antares launch carrying the Cygnus spacecraft to the ISS scheduled for Sunday will be carrying numerous research projects to the ISS in addition to its resupply mission to the space station.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.