This article was written by WTOP’s news partner InsideNoVa.com and republished with permission. Sign up for InsideNoVa.com’s free email subscription today.
A first of its kind rocket launch is now scheduled for tonight from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore — and it should be visible to those of us on the ground if all goes as planned.
The launch was originally scheduled for Monday, but was delayed due to poor weather conditions. Weather for today is 90% favorable for the 6-8 p.m. launch window, NASA said.
The 59-foot-tall Electron rocket will lift off from Launch Complex 2 near Chincoteague. The mission, named “Virginia is for Launch Lovers,” will deploy radio frequency monitoring satellites for HawkEye 360, a geospatial analytics company headquartered in Herndon.
These circular areas show where and when people may see Rocket Lab’s Electron launch in the sky, depending on cloud cover.
The launch may be visible, weather permitting, to residents throughout much of the East Coast, including the D.C. area.
The Wallops launch pad was developed to support Electron missions from U.S. soil for government and commercial customers, Rocket Lab said in a news release.
The mission is the first of three Electron launches for HawkEye 360 in a contract that will see Rocket Lab deliver 15 satellites to low Earth orbit between by the end of 2024.
“These missions will grow HawkEye 360’s constellation of radio frequency monitoring satellites, enabling the company to better deliver precise geolocation of radio frequency emissions anywhere in the world,” the release said.
If you want to see the launch from Chincoteague Island, viewing locations tonight include Robert Reed Park on Main Street or Beach Road spanning the area between Chincoteague and Assateague islands. The Virginia, Maryland and Delaware Atlantic beaches also provide good viewing locations, NASA said in a news release.
Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket stands atop the company’s Launch Complex-2 on NASA’s Wallops Island.
A live launch webcast will be available at www.rocketlabusa.com/live-stream beginning about 40 minutes before launch.
“We’re incredibly excited about the capability we’re bringing to Virginia by delivering responsive launch for our customers from U.S. soil, and we’re also proud of the opportunities it creates for the local community by creating highly-skilled jobs and bringing high-tech manufacturing to the Eastern Shore,” said Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck in a statement.
While “Virginia Is For Launch Lovers” will be Electron’s first launch from the U.S., Rocket Lab has already conducted 32 Electron missions from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand, delivering 152 satellites to orbit for customers including NASA, the National Reconnaissance Office, DARPA, the U.S. Space Force and a range of commercial constellation operators.