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Watch live tonight! NASA sounding rocket launch to make colorful cloud show over eastern US

Update for 6:45 p.m. EDT, May 12: NASA has postponed today's planned launch of the Kinet-X sounding rocket mission "to provide time for inspection of the rocket after the vehicle came in contact with a launcher support during today’s preparations," agency officials announced via Twitter. The next launch opportunity will come on Friday (May 14) at 8:02 p.m. EDT (0002 GMT on May 15).


Earlier story:

NASA will launch a Black Brant XII sounding rocket from the agency's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia today (May 11), and you can watch it live online or in person. 

Observers in the eastern U.S. will have an opportunity to see a colorful light show following the rocket's liftoff, weather permitting. The sounding rocket will release nontoxic barium vapor that will form two visible, green-violet clouds in the evening sky. The clouds will remain visible for about 30 seconds, according to NASA. 

Liftoff is scheduled to occur during a 40-minute launch window that opens at 8:04 p.m. EDT (0004 May 11 GMT). You can watch the mission live in the window above beginning at 7:40 p.m. EDT (2340 GMT), courtesy of NASA Wallops, or directly via the Wallops IBM video site.

Full story: NASA rocket launch may spark visible light show over US East Coast and Bermuda tonight

The map on the left shows where observers may be able to see the launch of NASA's Black Brant XII sounding rocket from Wallops Island, weather permitting. On the right is a photo of a four-stage Black Brant XII sounding rocket. (Image credit: NASA)

From NASA:

UPDATE 5/9: The launch of the Black Brant XII sounding rocket carrying the KiNET-X payload has been postponed to no earlier than 8:04 p.m., Monday, May 10.  The launch has been postponed due to upper level winds not being within the required limits for a safe launch. The launch window for Sunday runs until 8:44 p.m.

A mission to explore energy transport in space using a NASA suborbital sounding rocket launching May 8, 2021, from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia may provide a brief light show for residents of the eastern United States and Bermuda.

The mission is scheduled for no earlier than 8:02 p.m. EDT with a 40-minute launch window, Saturday, May 8. Backup launch days run through May 16. The launch may be visible, weather permitting, in much of the eastern United States from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi River.

A four-stage Black Brant XII rocket will be used for the mission that includes the release of barium vapor that will form two green-violet clouds that may be visible for about 30 seconds. The barium vapor is not harmful to the environment or public health

The mission, called the KiNETic-scale energy and momentum transport eXperiment, or KiNet-X, is designed to study a very fundamental problem in space plasmas, namely, how are energy and momentum transported between different regions of space that are magnetically connected?  

The vapor will be released approximately 9 minutes and 30 seconds to around 10 minutes after launch at about 217-249 miles altitude over the Atlantic Ocean and 540-560 miles downrange from Wallops and just north of Bermuda.

Immediately after release of the vapor, the spherical clouds are a mixture of green and violet, but that phase only lasts about 30 seconds when the un-ionized component of the cloud has diffused away. After exposure to sunlight the vapor clouds quickly ionize and take on a violet color. 

The ionized portion of the cloud becomes tied to the magnetic field lines and diffuses parallel to the field lines but not perpendicular to it.  In the mid-Atlantic region latitudes, the field lines are inclined by about 45 degrees to the horizontal, so the violet clouds stretch out in a slanted orientation and look more like short trails than a cloud.  Because the motion of the neutral portion of the clouds is not constrained by the magnetic field lines, they spread out more quickly and become too thin to see with the naked eye much sooner than the ionized component.

In general, the human eye does not see violet colors very well in darkness. The KiNET-X clouds will therefore be more difficult for the casual observer to see than some of the previous vapor missions launched from Wallops.

Live coverage of the mission will be available on the Wallops IBM video site (previously Ustream) beginning at 7:40 p.m. on launch day. Launch status updates can be found on the Wallops Facebook and Twitter sites.

The NASA Visitor Center at Wallops will not be open for launch viewing.


'ISS Live!' Tune in to the space station

Find out what the astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station are up to by tuning in to the "ISS Live" broadcast. Hear conversations between the crew and mission controllers on Earth and watch them work inside the U.S. segment of the orbiting laboratory. When the crew is off duty, you can enjoy live views of Earth from Space. You can watch and listen in the window below, courtesy of NASA.

From NASA:

"Live video from the International Space Station includes internal views when the crew is on-duty and Earth views at other times. The video is accompanied by audio of conversations between the crew and Mission Control. This video is only available when the space station is in contact with the ground. During 'loss of signal' periods, viewers will see a blue screen.

"Since the station orbits the Earth once every 90 minutes, it experiences a sunrise or a sunset about every 45 minutes. When the station is in darkness, external camera video may appear black, but can sometimes provide spectacular views of lightning or city lights below." 

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  • The Exoplanets Channel
    It will be exciting!
    Reply
  • rod
    The Exoplanets Channel said:
    It will be exciting!

    It could also be more issues for stargazing too :)
    Reply
  • Postman1
    rod said:
    It could also be more issues for stargazing too :)
    All the more reason to build telescopes on the far side of the Moon.
    Reply
  • whatdoctor
    I have been watching space launches since 1969 and I still find them exciting.
    Reply
  • Moondaya
    for sure

    Each progress about space was and will be exciting! I wish to see days when base set up on the moon.
    Reply
  • jimmiy
    Reply
  • Castacon79
    New here so I can get the world to see if they can do something
    Reply
  • Erik
    rod said:
    It could also be more issues for stargazing too :)
    adapt, exceed....or die... When/if teleportation appears will anyone have any concern for travel agents, common carriers or taxi/uber drivers?
    Reply
  • Dan41273
    I don't want to burst any bubbles, but the water is from earth shedding the vapor into space, and some of it collects on the moon, and throughout space......
    Reply
  • Hughjer
    Annnnnd... aborted again. Maybe tomorrow folks.
    Reply