3…2…1… Liftoff!!!

That’s the phrase you hear in the control room of a rocket launch. And you might be able to catch the next one if you plan ahead.

The Cygnus Launch to the International Space Station is set to launch today, April 17th (weather permitting), at 4:46 pm EDT. NASA will begin live coverage at 4:00 pm.

This launch is in Accomack County Virginia at the Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.

Antares Launch from Sunday, July 13, 2014 from the Wallops Island Flight Facility. Photo courtesy of NASA.

This Antares launch will carry its Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station according to NASA.

This is an important launch because it carries, “7,500 pounds of research, crew supplies, and hardware” (NASA).

NASA says that at about 2.5 hours after the launch an automatic system will deploy the spacecrafts’s solar arrays and this process is expected to take about 30 minutes.

Once it makes it to space it’s expected arrival time will be just two days later on the 19th at around 5:30 am. NASA says that several astronauts at the International Space Station will grab the needed supplies and research from the spacecraft.

How can you view the launch?

The place to view the launch will be at the Visitor Center at the Wallops Space Facility. It is just 2 miles away from the launchpad and is the official viewing area. It is advised you get there a few hours early as a big crowd is expected.

But if you’re not able to see the launch at the official site, you should be able to see it anywhere along the Eastern shore and the surrounding area. You just won’t be able to see the launch itself, but you can (weather permitting) see it a few seconds to a few minutes after the launch and once it’s up in the sky.

The picture below shows the predicted visibility map for the viewing area. To read this map, you pick where you are located and if you’re within that ring that is the point in time after the launch you should be able to see the spacecraft. For example, if you’re in Virginia Beach, you’re located along the green line and that means you should be able to see the spacecraft 60 seconds (1 min) after the launch.

Time after launch you can expect to see the spacecraft. Courtesy of NASA.

Once the spacecraft is at the ISS, it will stay there until July 23 and will stay in orbit until December before it arrives in Earth’s atmosphere. Once it arrives in the atmosphere it will burn up on it’s way down.

If this launch does not occur today the next planned launch will be on Thursday, April 18, at 4:23 pm.

For more information you can click here.

Photos are courtesy of NASA.

Cover image is of the Antares rocket that launched on Nov 17, 2018.

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