The Antares rocket and Cygnus capsule headed to the International Space Station on Feb. 9, 2020, was raised to vertical position on a launchpad at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. (Image: © NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)
WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. — There’s a space double feature in store for rocket fans today, with two launches to some very different places off Earth. And yes, you’ll be able to watch it all live online.
The action, which NASA has dubbed its “Big Weekend,” begins at 5:39 p.m. EST (2239 GMT) with the launch of a Northrop Grumman Antares rocket carrying a commercial Cygnus cargo ship on a delivery mission for NASA. It will lift off from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport here at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility carrying more than 7,500 lbs. (3,401 kilograms) of supplies to the International Space Station.
Less than six hours later, at 11:03 p.m. EST (0403 GMT Feb. 10), a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket will launch the Solar Orbiter — a joint mission by NASA and the European Space Agency — from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. That mission will send a powerful space probe to orbit the sun’s poles to understand the origins of space weather that affects the entire solar system.
You can watch both launches live here and on Space.com’s homepage, courtesy of NASA TV. The Antares launch webcast will begin at5 p.m. EST (2200 GMT)on NASA TV, though Wallops officials will provide live audio and video via the center’s Ustream page beginning at 12:30 p.m. EST (1730 GMT). There’s also a chance the launch may be visible along a wide swath of the U.S. East Coast, weather permitting.
The Solar Orbiter launch webcast will begin later at 10:30 p.m. EST (0330 GMT Feb. 10) and show views through the launch.
“With two launches and a major address by the administrator, NASA has a lot of news coming,” the agency wrote in an update. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine will host a “State of NASA” address on Monday (Feb. 10) when the 2021 NASA budget request is announced.
Today’s rocket launch double-header is a fluke of launch scheduling. In fact, it wasn’t supposed to happen at all.
The Solar Orbiter was originally scheduled to launch on Feb. 5, but an issue with its Atlas V rocket prompted a launch delay. The mission was first pushed to Feb. 7, then ultimately to Feb. 9, while Atlas V engineers worked out the issue.
Aside from NASA’s role in both missions, the two launches do not share any overlapping assets, agency officials have said.
“With this launch, we do not have any conflicts,” Jeff Reddish, NASA’s Wallops launch range project manager for Antares, told reporters Saturday.
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