(UPDATE: Orbital Sciences' first Antares rocket is now set to launch on Saturday, April 20, at 5 p.m. ET. Watch It Live) WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. —When you think of American rocket launches, it's a safe bet that Florida and space shuttles and moon shots come to mind. But some folks might be surprised to know that rockets have been blasting off from Virginia's Eastern Shore for years.
Right now, I am about 2 miles away from a brand-new rocket — Orbital Sciences' Antares — waiting for what promises to be a spectacular launch. To my untrained eye, it feels like an amazing day. The sun is out, there's a light breeze and, except for the mosquitoes, it could be a great day for a rocket launch. Officials are keeping an eye on high-altitude clouds. That's all Orbital's worrying about right now. If all goes well, this 13-story rocket will launch out over the Atlantic Ocean and head southeast. If you live on the East Coast between Maine and South Carolina, there's a chance you might be able to see the rocket soar spaceward, according to Orbital Sciences. To see what the rocket launch might look like where you are, check out these photo simulations.
NASA's Wallops Flight Facility here at the southern tip of Wallops Island was founded in 1945 as a center for aeronautical research and has launched something like 16,000 small sounding rockets during NASA's tenure. In case you missed it, NASA scientists at Wallops launched an absolutely spectacular suborbital rocket flight on Jan. 29. That rocket launch painted the night sky red by releasing a chemical in the upper atmosphere as part of a science experiment. [See photo of NASA painting the night sky red]