Locals get rare chance to watch daytime rocket launch
WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. – It was a special afternoon for Delmarva Wednesday, and if you were lucky enough to be there or even if you only got a chance to look toward the sky, at 4:46 PM, you were one of thousands enjoying history.
In a rare launch in broad daylight, even more eyes were focused on the skies across Delmarva.
“A lot of interest from the kids. I hope they get fired up. I’ve talked to a bunch of them, they’re really excited to see a rocket launch. So hope they got a good launch today, a good show. Hopefully inspiring the next generation,” said VP of Antares Rocket Program Kurt Eberly.
As the countdown to launch began, a hushed excitement came over crowds gathered to witness history.
“I was nervous, like I was the one behind the controls, and the closer it got I’m like oh my god, this is it,” said Charlie Alejandro, who drove from Massachusetts to witness the launch.
Folks said they could feel the vibrations of the launch from miles away.
“It’s funny because you’re two miles away, so you don’t think that’s going to happen, but it does, and then just to see it is magnificent, you can’t describe it,” said Alejandro.
New to this launch is late-load capability. Previously, cargo was loaded four days prior to launch, but this new capability allows them to load time-sensitive experiments 24 hours before launch time.
“These are experiments that are going to be sent to the space station. Some rodent experiments, with live rodents inside,” said Eberly. “The time was just too long to have confidence that the science experiments would be good.”
In future missions, this new capability will be used to load fresh food as close to launch as possible.
“It really opens us up to fresh fruit and other things that you want to be as fresh as possible, and give the astronauts a treat,” said Eberly.
The rocket launched from Wallops on Wednesday is scheduled to make it to its destination, the International Space Station, on Friday.
This is the last launch under the current contract awarded in 2008. The rockets that will be launched starting in October come with new advancements.
The two most important aspects are the added cargo it can carry, an additional 660 pounds, and the ability to go full throttle the whole way through the Earth’s atmosphere.