When Is the NASA Rocket Launch? Black Brant XII Takeoff From Wallops Postponed Again

NASA has postponed a rocket launch from its facility in Wallops, Virginia, for the sixth time.

The agency's Black Brant XII rocket was originally due to take off at 7:58 p.m. ET on Friday, May 7. Weather conditions over the past few days have prevented the launch, with winds not in the required range for a safe takeoff.

The sounding rocket is being launched as part of NASA's KiNet-X mission to investigate how energy and momentum travel in areas of space that are magnetically connected. The rocket will give off two harmless clouds of barium vapor. Clear skies are needed at Wallops and Bermuda in order to view the vapor as it maps its surroundings, according to NASA.

NASA tweeted on May 8: "These types of science missions require specific conditions and sometimes can take days before launching."

There are several factors to consider before launching a sounding rocket, according to the space agency, including wind speed and direction as well as the launch angle.

On Wednesday, NASA's Wallops Flight Facility tweeted that the launch had been postponed again so the rocket could be inspected "after the vehicle came in contact with a launcher support during today's preparations."

Newsweek has contacted the Wallops facility for further information on the incident.

The latest postponement came after NASA had extended the window for Wednesday's launch to run from 7:59 p.m. ET to 8:53 p.m. because it was concerned about clouds in Bermuda.

The next opportunity to send up the rocket will be 8:02 p.m. ET on Friday, May 14. Backup windows are running until May 16.

Maggie Lieu, a research fellow in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the U.K.'s University of Nottingham, who is not involved in the project, told Newsweek it was normal for rocket launches to be postponed because of the weather.

"These missions can cost many millions, so it would be foolish to risk it on launching in unsuitable weather conditions. But fortunately many launches have wide launch windows."

Ian Whittaker, senior lecturer in physics at Nottingham Trent University, who was also not involved in the project, said all space agencies have to postpone launches from time to time because of bad weather.

Adverse conditions such as high winds or rain can cause the rocket to deviate from its path, which means the rocket may need more fuel than it is carrying to correct its course "or possibly could cause a fatal error in the rocket," Whittaker said.

NASA has acknowledged that the launch of Black Brant XII hasn't gone as hoped. After a number of failed attempts, NASA said on Monday there was a 60 percent chance of favourable cloud cover conditions for the camera sites at Wallops and Bermuda. Hours later, it tweeted: "Clouds, clouds go away."

The launch was then held with 15 minutes to go and eventually scrubbed because of upper-level winds.

NASA tweeted: "We're disappointed too," with a gif of a crying astronaut.

We're disappointed too. pic.twitter.com/gb7MWqGwLe

— NASA Wallops (@NASA_Wallops) May 11, 2021

Although the winds were "cooperating" on Tuesday, the rocket launch was initially held for 15 minutes while the agency waited for conditions to improve—and was later canceled because of cloudy skies in Bermuda and Wallops.

Referring to its current Mars mission, NASA's Sun and Space account tweeted on Tuesday: "Perseverance isn't just for Mars rovers."

Perseverance isn’t just for Mars rovers. 😉 We’re making another attempt to launch the KiNET-X sounding rocket from Virginia this evening. Stay up to date with @NASA_Wallops!

👀 Residents of the eastern U.S. & Bermuda — keep your eyes peeled to possibly see the launch! https://t.co/bXc5hmq2DO

— NASA Sun & Space (@NASASun) May 11, 2021

Those hoping to see the launch on Friday can watch it via a livestream on the Wallops IBM website.

nasa rocket launch wallops facility, getty
A rocket takes off from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on November 17, 2018. The agency hopes to launch Black Brant XII from the same facility by May 16. Joel Kowsky/NASA via Getty Images