NASA Rocket Launch From Wallops Postponed Again After Black Brant XII Touched Stand

The NASA launch carrying a payload for the KiNet-X mission has been postponed again after the rocket came into contact with a metal stand, officials from the space agency said.

The four-stage Black Brant XII rocket being used for the mission was originally meant to take off from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on May 7. But weather conditions over the past few days have not been good enough for the mission to go ahead.

NASA Wallops said in a statement on Twitter Thursday that the Black Brant XII launch is now scheduled for no earlier than Saturday, May 15 with the window opening at 8:10 p.m. ET. NASA said crews are inspecting the rocket and launcher after the vehicle came into contact with a launcher support during take-off preparations.

NASA's Keith Koehler told Newsweek: "During launch preparations last night the rocket came in contact with a metal stand that supports the launch rail. In abundance of caution it was decided to inspect the integrity of the motors, umbilical connections and sections between the motors to make sure everything is in the proper condition for flight."

"It is normal for these type of science missions to have delays. Not only do we have to have correct conditions for launch but also the conditions at multiple ground sites to view the vapor releases as part of the experiment."

As part of the mission, known as the KiNETic-scale energy and momentum transport eXperiment, or KiNet-X, the Black Brant XII rocket will release barium vapor during the launch that will form two green-violet clouds, which may be visible for around 30 seconds. NASA said the barium vapor is not harmful to the environment or public health.

The aim of the KiNet-X is to study how energy and momentum are transported between different regions of space that are magnetically connected.

The rocket will release the vapor around 10 minutes after launching at an altitude of 217-249 miles over the Atlantic Ocean, just north of Bermuda.

"Scientist use vapor tracers primarily to study atmospheric winds in upper atmosphere and ionosphere," NASA Wallops said on Twitter on May 7. "When released after launch, the tracers make it possible to directly observe the winds."

"The materials that make up the vapor tracers are the same used in fireworks that make them colorful. Fireworks release more material and even closer to the ground."

When it does eventually go ahead, the launch may be visible, weather permitting, in much of the eastern United States.

"For most people, the rocket is going to look like a small dot moving quickly through the sky, similar to the International Space Station passing over, but much faster," NASA Wallops said on Twitter Sunday.

The NASA Visitor Center at Wallops will not be open for launch viewing. But the Wallops IBM video site will be providing live coverage of the mission when it does go ahead. Launch updates will also be provided by the NASA Wallops Facebook and Twitter accounts.

After the launch was postponed for the first time, NASA Wallops posted on Twitter that the mission will be using a "sounding rocket, which is smaller and faster than the Antares rocket, and can be easy to miss. These types of science missions require specific conditions and sometimes can take days before launching. We'll provide any updates closer to the window opening."

A four-stage Black Brant XII rocket
A four-stage Black Brant XII sounding rocket launching. NASA