Photos: Nighttime Launch from Wallops Island Visible to Millions

Last night’s launch of a Minotaur I rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia was visible to millions along the east coast of the US and southern Canada, and many were out with their cameras to watch the sight.

The launch sent a record payload of 29 satellites to low Earth orbit, including the first cubesat built by high school students.

Launch occurred at about 8:15 p.m. EST on November 19 (01:15 UTC, Nov. 20).

Minotaur 1 rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Nov. 19, 2013. Credit: NASA/Jeremy Eggers.

Approximately 12 minutes after lift-off, the Air Force’s Space Test Program Satellite-3 spacecraft was deployed into its intended orbit at an altitude of approximately 500 km (310 miles). The Minotaur’s upper stage then executed a pre-planned collision avoidance maneuver before starting deployment of 28 CubeSats sponsored by the Department of Defense’s Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) office, the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s Space Test Program, and NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) program.

This was the 25th launch for Orbital Science’s Minotaur rocket, all of which have been successful, and the sixth Minotaur vehicle to be launched from the Wallops facility.

The launch of the Minotaur 1 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility was photographed from Lancaster, PA on November 19, 2013. Credit and copyright: Marion Haligowski.

Marion Haligowski took the image above, saying “I should have used a wider lens; I didn’t realize the launch would take up 1/4 of the sky from 154 miles away!” and of her image below she added, “I was surprised how high the separation was from 154 miles away from the Wallops Island launch site.”

Final separation of the Minotaur 1 is seen high in the sky of Lancaster, PA on the evening of November 19, 2013. Two exposures were stacked in StarStaX using a Canon T2i (ISO 400 / 25 seconds) and a 50 mm f/1.4 lens at f/5.6. Credit and copyright: Marion Haligowski.

Our own Jason Major saw the launch from near his home in Rhode Island. “I withstood the cold (and launch delay) to capture this photo of a rising Minotaur I rocket, launched 400 miles south,” Jason said. This is a 15-second exposure.

This was a portion of the second stage flight of a Minotaur I rocket launched from Wallops Island, Virginia, seen from Conimicut Point in Warwick at around 8:17 p.m. EST on Nov. 19, 2013. Credit and copyright: Jason Major.
ORS-3 Minotaur Launch Seen from about 150 miles away in western Louisa, VA. The diffuse moonlight nearly washed out the rocket’s “trail” altogether, but fortunately it was still visible. Credit and copyright: David Murr.

Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Twitter feed had a running commentary of the launch activities and posted this image shortly after launch:

Orbital Science Corporation posted this image on their Twitter feed of the launch as seen from the public viewing are at Wallops Flight Facility. Via Orbital.

And the launch was a topic of discussion on Twitter, too:

Here’s a short timelapse of the launch, viewed from the beach in Cape May, New Jersey. Photographer Frank Miller said that 20 minutes before the 8:15 PM launch, he photographed a meteor streaking south, which is the first “streak” you see in the video:

The next Wallops launch is an Antares rocket with a Cygnus cargo spacecraft targeted for Dec. 15-21, 2013, and as it looks now, it will again be an evening launch, so make your preparations to see it, and we’ll keep you posted on launch dates.

And if you missed the launch, here’s the replay:

Nancy Atkinson

Nancy has been with Universe Today since 2004. She is the author of a new book on the Apollo program, "Eight Years to the Moon," which shares the stories of 60 engineers and scientists who worked behind the scenes to make landing on the Moon possible. Her first book, "Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos" tells the stories of those who work on NASA's robotic missions to explore the Solar System and beyond.

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