NASA Rocket Launch of LADEE Satellite from Wallops Island, VA – A Sight to See
Weather conditions were perfect on the night of September 6, 2013 to watch the launch of the Minotaur V rocket from NASA’s space flight operations located in Wallops Island, VA. Our viewing point was South Bethany Beach, DE approximately 40 miles from Wallops Island. Not a cloud in the sky when the bright glow to our southwest illuminated the horizon in a ball of yellow colored light. Within seconds the long flame from the rocket engines could be seen rising into the night sky as the vehicles trajectory took it directly over our perch in the sand at the ocean’s edge. Stage separation, a total of five but we could clearly observe three, was beautiful to watch as the spacecraft flew by. The rocket was visible for approximately 2 minutes before the pin point of remaining light faded into the eastern sky.
According to news reports the rocket could be seen along the eastern seaboard as far south as South Carolina and points north beyond Boston, MA. As close as we were to NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility our viewing location was nothing short of fantastic.
The Minotaur V rocket is carrying the LADEE satellite, which stands for Lunar Atmosphere Dust Environment Explorer. After launch the rocket will orbit the earth before continuing its journey to the moon to explore dust particulate in the thin lunar atmosphere. The abundance of dust on the lunar surface has been a mystery since the Apollo missions transported men to the moon starting in 1969.
The Minotaur V rocket has a long history in the U.S. arsenal. Its ancestry dates back to when it was referred to as the Peacekeeper missile. This is the first time a rocket launched from NASA’s Wallops Island, VA facility will leave earth’s orbit. Without question watching future night time launches is a must see event.