NASA Wallops Island Rocket Launch Scheduled for Tonight After It Was Postponed Again

NASA has once again postponed a rocket launch from its Wallops facility in Virginia due to weather conditions.

NASA's Wallops Flight Facility tweeted on Wednesday that the launch of its Black Brant XII sounding rocket, due to take place on Tuesday had been "scrubbed because of cloudy skies in Bermuda and Wallops."

The next opportunity to attempt a launch would be no earlier than 8:06 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, with backup windows running through May 16.

LAUNCH SCRUBBED ❗ Tonight's launch of the KiNET-X sounding rocket has been scrubbed due to cloudy skies in Bermuda and Wallops. The next launch opportunity will be no earlier than May 12, at 8:06 p.m. EDT. Backup days run through May 16.

— NASA Wallops (@NASA_Wallops) May 12, 2021

The launch was originally planned to take place on Friday, but has been repeatedly postponed. On Tuesday, NASA said on its website the day's launch was postponed "due to upper level winds not being within the required limits for a safe launch."

NASA said the launch could be visible for most of the eastern United States, from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi River. Residents of the eastern United States may see a "brief light show" when the launch takes place, it said.

The NASA Visitor Center at Wallops is currently closed to the public due to COVID restrictions. But those who want to watch can do so via a livestream on the Wallops IBM video website.

During the launch, the rocket will give off two harmless barium clouds that will affect the Earth's magnetic field. Unlike past missions from Wallops involving vapor, the barium will not produce clouds as colorful, NASA said.

Around nine-and-a-half minutes after Black Brant XII takes off, the vapor will be let off at around 217 to 249 miles altitude over the Atlantic Ocean, and 540 to 560 miles downrange from Wallops and just north of Bermuda, according to NASA.

When the vapor is released, the clouds will be green and violet for around 30 seconds, before turning violet when they are exposed to sunlight.

The rocket launch is part of the KiNETic-scale energy and momentum transport eXperiment (KiNet-X) mission to understand how energy and momentum travel in different parts of space that are magnetically connected. In a news release, NASA gave the example of the polar lights known as auroras, which occur when charged particles from the sun interact with the Earth's magnetic field.

It is hoped the barium will energize electrons in the Earth's space environment.

Other payloads in the rocket will carry instruments to measure if electrons are energized. The smallest four of the seven payloads are nicknamed "Bobs," and are about the size of two-liter soda bottles.

nasa rocket launch wallops virginia  Black Brant,getty
A NASA rocket launches on Wednesday, April 17, 2019 at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. NASA hopes to launch a Black Brant XII from this facility. Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images