Sunset rocket launch in Virginia tonight may be visible along the US East Coast

Update for 5:45 p.m. ET: NASA has scrubbed the launch of Northrop Grumman's Cygnus NG-13 mission to the International Space Station. A new launch window has not yet been announced.

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. — Northrop Grumman is counting down to a sunset rocket launch tonight (Feb. 9) and it just might be visible to observers along a wide swath of the U.S. East Coast, weather permitting. 

A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket will launch the Cygnus NG-13 cargo ship toward the International Space Station from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport here at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility at 5:39 p.m. EST (2239 GMT). The mission will lift off just six minutes after sunset, according to, and could be a spectacular sight.

"If you're on the East Coast, you also may be able to see the launch," NASA spokesperson Stephanie Schierholz said in a briefing Saturday (Feb. 8). "It has been reported to be seen from Washington, D.C. and other locations on the East Coast."

The Cygnus spacecraft is carrying more than 7,500 lbs. (3,401 kilograms) of supplies, science experiments and other gear for the three-person crew of the International Space Station.

Related: Bacteria, bone & more: Here's the science launching on Cygnus NG-13

This NASA map shows the potential range of visibility for Northrop Grumman's launch of an Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus NG-13 cargo ship for NASA from the Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia on Feb. 9, 2020. (Image credit: NASA Wallops Flight Facility)

According to a NASA visibility map, the launch could be visible across the mid-Atlantic region, with sightings possible as far north as Connecticut; as far east as northeastern West Virginia; and as far south as eastern North Carolina.

Clear skies and an unobscured view in the direction of the launch is vital. Depending on your location, the rocket could look like a fast-moving, red light and may not be visible right at launch time. Sightings at the furthest edges of the visibility range in Connecticut, West Virginia and North Carolina would not begin until 180 seconds after liftoff, according to NASA's map. 

If you have cloudy skies or an obstructed view, you can watch the Cygnus launch live here and on's homepage, courtesy of NASA TV. NASA's webcast will begin at 5 p.m. EST (2200 GMT).

If you are near Virginia's Eastern Shore region, you can watch the Cygnus launch in person from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility Visitor Center. Directions and guidelines for launch viewing are here.The Visitor Center will open at 1:30 p.m. EST (1830 GMT). Wallops will also stream live video and audio on its Ustream channel here beginning at 12:30 p.m. EST (1730 GMT). Local spectators can also catch the launch at Robert Reed Park on Chincoteague Island and on Beach Road between Chincoteague and Assateague Islands, according to NASA's guide. 

Wallops officials will post mission updates at the Wallops Mission Status Center here, as well as on Facebook and Twitter

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.