On Wednesday, July 15, 2020 a rocket launch is scheduled in Virginia that could be visible as far west as Ohio. This launch will be in partnership with NASA, Wallops, Northrop Grumman, Virginia Space and the U.S. Space Force Space and Missile System Center.
The Minotaur IV rocket will be carrying a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and is scheduled to launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s (MARS) Pad 0B on Wallops Island.
Services for the mission, named NROL-129, are going to be provided by The U.S. Space Force (USSF) Space and Missile Systems Center’s Launch Enterprise Program.
This will also be the NRO’s 54th launch since 1996, but NROL-129,will be the first USSF mission from Wallops Flight Facility and the NRO’s first dedicated launch from Wallops. The NRO’s next launch from NASA Wallops Flight Facility is scheduled for 2nd Quarter, CY2021.
While we know that the Minotaur IV rocket is scheduled to launch on Wednesday, July 15, due to the classified nature of the flight, an exact time for the launch has not been disclosed. There is however a targeted window that opens at 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT) and closes at 1:45 p.m. EDT (1745 GMT).
The NASA Visitor Center at Wallops will not be open for this mission, but no matter where you are, you will be able to watch the mission through a live stream on Wallops YouTube channel starting at 8:30 a.m.
Not only will you be able to watch the launch online, but most of the East Coast, including Ohio could be lucky enough to set outside and see the rocket. Even though Columbus, Ohio is over 500 miles from the launch cite, according to a visibility prediction map released by NASA, in Central Ohio our view of the rocket will come between 120-150 seconds after liftoff.
In order for the launch to be take place and be visible, the weather will have to cooperate. Wallops Island, VA is expecting a comfortable day with a mostly sunny sky and highs climbing to the 80s, which should not pose a threat to delaying the flight. In Columbus, just like today, we’ll have a few clouds to dodge, but should still have a clear enough sky to see the rocket on about a 2 minute delay.
If you’re able to snap a photo of the rockets, remember to share it with NBC4. One way to do that is directly through the free NBC4 mobile weather app.