A historic rocket launch will dazzle sky-gazers throughout the region Friday night as NASA returns to the moon for a lunar dust investigation.
The Minotaur V rocket is slated to blast off between 11:27 and 11:31 PM EDT at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility near Chincoteague Island, Virginia.
The rocket will carry NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment (LADEE) into a lunar transfer orbit, according to a release from Orbital Sciences Corporation, the manufacturer of the Minotaur series.
From the release:
Minotaur will boost the LADEE Spacecraft into a highly elliptical orbit of 200 km x 278,000 km around the Earth. Over the next 23 days, as LADEE orbits Earth 3.5 times, the Moon’s gravitational field will increase the perigee of its orbit. The spacecraft will fire its on-board thrusters to alter its trajectory to allow it to enter orbit around the Moon. The spacecraft is designed to conduct a 100 day mission to measure lunar dust and examine the lunar atmosphere from an orbit of 50 km above the surface of the Moon. The LADEE program is managed by NASA/Ames Research Center.
The mission also represents a number of firsts, including:
First launch of the Minotaur V configuration
First five-stage vehicle flown by Orbital
First Peacekeeper-based vehicle launched from Wallops Flight Facility
First Lunar mission flown by Orbital
First Lunar mission flown from Wallops
“It will tell us a lot about the moon,” NASA’s Ames Research Center Director Pete Worden tells Universe Today.
The exciting news for us is that we’ll be able to see the rocket’s flames and smoke trail as it heads toward space. In our area, the rocket will become visible to the south/southeast less than a minute after launch.
Keep in mind that weather and local lighting will impact your view, according to the release, but the excellent news is that skies will be mostly clear for the launch. Consider finding a dark location.
Be sure to monitor Wallops Flight Facility on Facebook for up-to-the-minute launch information.
Enjoy the show!