The nighttime sky is putting on quite the performance this week–the mesmerizing Geminids meteor shower just peaked this past Tuesday, December 13, and now tonight, Friday, December 16, we may get the chance to watch as a rocket soars over our heads!
Rocket Lab, a private spaceflight company that provides launches for small satellites to Earth orbit, will launch an Electron rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia tonight–its first-ever mission from U.S. soil.
Its launch will light up most of the East Coast’s skies, giving us each the chance to catch a glimpse of it as it soars overhead.
The mission, named “Virginia is for Launch Lovers,” was originally scheduled for last Friday, December 9, but due to poor weather conditions in the Wallops area it had to be rescheduled.
Now, it will take to the skies tonight (Virginia weather permitting), with a launch window set between 6p.m. and 8p.m.
Unfortunately as of now the skies are looking pretty cloudy, but if conditions clear up it should be visible from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, most of the east coast, and part of the midwest for about two minutes. NYC residents should expect to catch a glimpse between 90 and 120 seconds after launch.
Though the rocket is pretty massive–it stands at 59 feet tall, is 3.9 feet in diameter, and can haul payloads of up to 661 pounds each mission–from a distance it will appear “like a bright, fast-moving star in the sky,” according to NASA Wallops.
Visibility of the rocket all depends on what the weather forecast is looking like. As of now, there’s a 50% chance of rain before 11p.m. And though it’s cloudy now, the clouds are expected to clear up at least partially, so who knows what the rocket’s visibility will be like.
However, if the weather doesn’t cooperate or you’re outside the viewing areas don’t worry–you can watch a live webcast here.