Launch of ISS-bound spacecraft from Wallops scheduled Sunday, may be visible from D.C.


A successful Orbital rocket launch in September 2013. (Orbital)

After numerous delays, the International Space Station (ISS)-bound Orb-2 mission is slated to launch early  Sunday afternoon from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va. Look up into the skies and you may catch a glimpse in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

The Orbital Sciences Antares rocket will release a cargo-carrying spacecraft known as Cygnus that will deliver supplies to the International Space Station. WJLA meteorologist Jacqui Jeras provides some additional detail:

[It] will be carrying 3,300 pounds of supplies for the ISS, including food, science experiments to expand the research capability of the space station’s Expedition 40 crew members, and tools. Many student experiments will be on board as well.

Provided clear skies, the launch will be visible as far away as Boston, Mass. and Charleston, S.C., and even areas just east of Pittsburgh could catch a glimpse. In the D.C. area, expect to see the rocket above the southeast horizon approximately 90 seconds after launch, which is scheduled for 12:52 p.m. ET.


Viewing map for the Orb-2 rocket launch, which is scheduled for 12:25 p.m. on Sunday, July 13. (Orbital)

According to a mission update on Orbital’s website, “the launch sequence will last about ten minutes from liftoff through the separation of Cygnus from the Antares vehicle.”

NASA’s Orbital blog offers additional specs on the rocket (see above):

The Antares rocket stands 131.5 feet tall, about the height of a 13-story building. The four poles surrounding the pad help protect the rocket from lightning. The water tower (formally the Water Deluge System) holds some 200,000 gallons of freshwater for cooling and noise suppression purposes. The white tank visible in the foreground is part of the Liquid Fueling Facility. Antares’ first stage is fueled with a combination of liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene.

To give an idea of where in the sky to look for the rocket, Orbital has created graphics for locations/landmarks around the region (we provide one below).


Orbital’s depiction of what the Orb-2 rocket launch will look like from the National Mall. (Orbital)

The forecast for Sunday early afternoon is currently favorable for the launch, with any storminess likely holding off until later in the day. The flight facility should see partly to mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the 80s at launch time. Winds will be from the south at 5 to 15 mph. Previous Orb-2 launches had been delayed for severe weather, but Sunday’s forecast prospects are more promising.

For the latest launch updates, follow @OrbitalSciences and @NASA_Wallops on Twitter. NASA TV will have launch coverage from noon to 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Angela Fritz is an atmospheric scientist and The Post's deputy weather editor.
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