NASA said on June 27, 2017 that the launch of its Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket is scheduled for between 4:25 and 4:48 a.m. EDT (between 8:25 and 8:48 UTC; translate to your time zone) this Thursday, June 29. It said the launch window is determined by sun angles and the location of the moon. The rocket is to test a new multi-canister ejection system for deploying vapors in rocket missions for studying Earth’s upper atmosphere and ionosphere, aka aurora soundings. Upon launch of the rocket, the vapors will form luminescent, blue-green and red, artificial clouds expected to be seen from New York to North Carolina.
— NASA Wallops (@NASA_Wallops) June 27, 2017
Backup launch day is June 30.
The Visitor Center at the Wallops Flight Facility on the eastern shore of Virginia will open at 3:30 a.m. on launch day, for those wishing to view the launch live. Live coverage online begins on the Wallops Ustream site at 3:45 a.m. on launch day and Wallops Facebook Live coverage begins at 4 a.m. on launch day. You might also check Twitter (@NASA_Wallops).
The launch was originally scheduled for early June and has been postponed several times. NASA explained:
These clouds, or vapor tracers, allow scientists on the ground to visually track particle motions in space.
The development of the multi-canister ampoule ejection system will allow scientists to gather information over a much larger area than previously allowed when deploying the tracers just from the main payload …
The vapor tracers are formed through the interaction of barium, strontium and cupric-oxide. The tracers will be released at altitudes 96 to 124 miles high and pose no hazard to residents along the mid-Atlantic coast.
Bottom line: A launch of NASA’s Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket expected to form colorful clouds in space, visible from New York to North Carolina. Launch window opens at 4:25 a.m. EDT (8:25 UTC), Thursday, June 29. Backup launch day June 30.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.