NASA Wallops Island Rocket Launch Will Make Clouds Glow

Residents in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States may want to step outside Wednesday to see the launch. The rocket being used is a Black Brant IX suborbital rocket, one that NASA hopes to eventually use to eject payloads like experiments or microsatellites into low orbit.


The launch is set for a few time between 7 and 9 p.m. from the agency’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

The vapor, which is to be released about 130 miles above the Earth, will contain a barium-strontium mixture that produces a cloud with a mix of blue-green and red colors.

NASA says that it should be visible as far as 235 miles north of the launch site (New York City and Long Island), 232 miles south of it (near Morehead City, North Carolina), and 165 miles west (Charlottesville, Virginia).

A launch being conducted Wednesday night to test multiple new technologies being developed at NASA should make for a colorful sky, as the rocket releases harmless vapors into the air that will form blue-green clouds. It’s also a test to see how well the rocket’s payloads can be for using vapor tracers to study the atmosphere itself, including phenomena like the aurora borealis, according to NASA.

Don’t worry though. The barium-strontium mixture used in the mission is a smaller amount than what is seen during a fireworks display during the Fourth of July, according to NASA, and poses no threat to the public.

Live coverage of the launch will be available via UStream beginning at 6 p.m. The status also can be followed today on Twitter and Facebook.


Black Brant 12 sounding rocket, launching from Wallops Flight Facility. And that’s what will provide the sky show during Wednesday’s liftoff.

Map shows area likely to see a cloud created by a sub-orbital launch on Wednesday evening