A Rocket Launch to the Space Station Today Could Be Visible Along US East Coast!

This visibility map highlights the regions where it will be easiest to see the NG-11 launch from Wallops Island in Virginia starting at 4:46 p.m. EDT (0846 GMT). Click the top right of the image to view a larger version. (Image credit: NASA's Wallops Flight Facility)

Update  for 8:12 p.m. EDT: Northrop Grumman's Antares rocket successfully launched the Cygnus NG-11 mission to the International Space Station today. Read our full launch recap here.

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. — There is a rare viewing opportunity  today (April 17) on the East Coast of the United States: Northrop Grumman Corp's Antares rocket will launch in the daytime from Pad-0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. 

Usually, launches from Wallops take place in the earliest morning hours. But, with this launch, anyone hoping to view the launch won't have to wake up early to catch it, as the rocket will be launching the Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station at 4:46 p.m. EDT (0846 GMT). 

However, while more people might be inclined to watch a 4:46 p.m. launch than one at 4:46 a.m., the sunlight will make the launch more difficult to see for anyone who is far away. Instead of a bright streak across a black sky, which is pretty easy to spot, viewers will be trying to spot the rocket against a bright backdrop. 

Related: Blastoff! How to See a Rocket Launch In Person

Still, there are potential viewing opportunities for the launch as far away as New York City. People who are near Wallops Island in Virginia and southern Maryland will have the best view, followed by those in Delaware, northern Maryland, and eastern Virginia. While cloud cover and the daylight might make the launch difficult to see, the event could be visible along the U.S. eastern coast. 

Anyone local to the region can catch the launch from NASA's Wallops Visitor Center, which will open at noon today. NASA has provided guidance here which shows you how to watch the launch from the visitor center. There will be additional public viewing areas at Robert Reed Park on Chincoteague Island and Beach Road, which stretches between Chincoteague and Assateague Islands. However, the beach at Assateague Island National Seashore/Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge will not be open during the launch. 

If you're not near Virginia nor within the viewing region of the launch, you can also watch the rocket lift off live at Space.com, courtesy of NASA TV. Additionally, Space.com will be webcasting the launch live on Facebook. Launch coverage will begin at 4:15 p.m. EDT (08:15 GMT). However you're watching the launch, you can find more information about the experience and participate, including hearing the audio countdown live, at the Wallops Mission Status Center

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Chelsea Gohd
Senior Writer

Chelsea “Foxanne” Gohd joined Space.com in 2018 and is now a Senior Writer, writing about everything from climate change to planetary science and human spaceflight in both articles and on-camera in videos. With a degree in Public Health and biological sciences, Chelsea has written and worked for institutions including the American Museum of Natural History, Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine and Live Science. When not writing, editing or filming something space-y, Chelsea "Foxanne" Gohd is writing music and performing as Foxanne, even launching a song to space in 2021 with Inspiration4. You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd and @foxannemusic.