Vapors released during a rocket launch scheduled for Wednesday night, though harmless to the environment, will light up the sky in multiple colors – and it will be visible from the east coast, potentially in New Jersey.
Approximately six minutes after planned launch from the Wallops Island space center in Virginia between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., the sounding rocket will deploy four sub-payloads containing mixtures of barium and strontium will be released, creating a cloud that is blue-green and red in color.
Sounding rockets, also called suborbital rockets, are valuable tools in qualifying technologies for flight, NASA said in a statement Wednesday. During this suborbital flight, NASA will test a modified Black Brant sounding rocket motor, launch vehicle and spacecraft systems and sub-payload ejection technologies.
“The flight also provides an opportunity to test new technologies being developed for space missions and science conducted using sounding rockets,” said Cathy Hesh, technology manager in the Sounding Rocket Program Office at Wallops.
The amount of barium and strontium used in the test is much smaller than that used in a typical July 4 fireworks display and poses no hazard to the environment, NASA said.
The best viewing position will be to look toward the southern sky at launch time. The rocket and coloration should be visible in New Jersey between about 5-6 minutes after the launch. Live coverage and monitoring of the launch is available via UStream beginning at 6 p.m.. The status also can be followed on launch day on Twitter and Facebook.