Oct 27, 2014 03:28 PM EDT
Orbital Sciences will launch a rocket containing supplies for the International Space Station from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia tonight, and if you live on the East Coast, you just might be able to view it with the naked eye. Skywatchers will also be treated to another site tonight as the ISS will pass overhead about five minutes after the rocket launch.
Orbital's rocket is carrying 5,000 pounds of supplies for the ISS, including clothes, food, tools & arts and scientific equipment. The Cygnus capsule is an unmanned space craft that will ride and Antares rocket into orbit before docking with the ISS. Orbital is contracted with NASA to deliver a total of eight such delivery missions of which this will be the third.
HOW TO WATCH
Lift-off is scheduled for 6:45 ET, so if you're on the East Coast, and provided there aren't any clouds where you are, you might be able to catch a glimpse of the Antares rocket as it carries the Cygnus' payload into orbit. The weather forecast for the East Coast is supposed to be favorable
If you're not on the East Coast and would still like to watch the launch, SPACE.com will be broadcasting the event live on its website starting at 5:45 ET/2:45 PT.
Officials are predicting a 98% probability that the mission will go ahead as scheduled tonight. The skies will be clear and winds will be light. According to NASA's test director at the Wallops facility, East Coast viewers shouldn't have a problem viewing the launch.
"You'll be able to see the rocket pretty much up and down the entire Eastern Seaboard there from about Connecticut to South Carolina. We'll have a great view of Antares lighting up the night sky," Daugherty explained.
Daugherty also said that the ISS will be visible over the East Coast around 5 minutes after the Antares lifts-off. The station will appears as a fast-moving star streaking across the sky.
NASA retired the space shuttle program back in 2011 and since then has had to use private companies, like Orbital, or foreign space agencies to get supplies and scientific equipment up to the ISS. Elon Musk's SpaceX is another private company that has a contract with NASA to ferry cargo into orbit. SpaceX has agreed to deliver 12 such unmanned cargo missions to ISS with its Dragon spacecraft. The fourth successful Dragon mission to ISS was just completed on Oct. 25 as the capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean near Baja California.
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