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NASA: Wallops rockets launch Tuesday morning

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – After poor weather conditions and some technical problems scrubbed previous launch dates, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) successfully launched five rockets from Virginia’s Wallops Flight Facility this Tuesday morning, March 27 around 5 a.m. NASA nearly missed this new launch window March 27 between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. as a result of some gusty winds and boats entering the launch range. Clear skies overnight in the Mid-Atlantic were perfect for the launches, as NASA stated that “a significant criteria for launch to proceed is clear skies not only at Wallops but also at viewing sites in New Jersey and North Carolina.” We finally had that early Tuesday morning!

NASA ATREX launch

Official NASA ATREX launch photo, March 27, 2012

After the launches, NASA Wallops said, “All five rockets were successful. First launch at 4:58 a.m. Reports as far south as Wilmington,NC; west to Charlestown, W.VA and north to Buffalo, NY. This concludes ATREX coverage. Next launch from Wallops is no earlier than late May.” Each launch was a mere 80 seconds apart!

Official NASA ATREX contrails photo, March 27, 2012

Official NASA ATREX contrails photo, March 27, 2012

You can watch the entire launch sequence from NASA Wallops by clicking here.

The initial launch earlier this month was scrubbed by NASA “because of an internal radio frequency interference issue with one of the rockets,” according to a statement from Wallops. Unsettled weather, fog, and other cloud-cover prevented the other rescheduled launches. Even if this morning’s launch attempt had not happened, the launches could have gone anytime between now and April 3.

Contrails from the rockets were visible to most of Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic. The rockets launched as quickly possible after each other, leading to its mission nickname by NASA of “Launch Madness: Five rockets. Five minutes.”

PHOTO: NASA

The rockets will be used to study winds 60 miles above the surface of the Earth. These winds move at speeds of 200 to 300 mph and are closely connected with the web of electric currents surrounding the Earth. This interaction of the high-speed winds and the magnetic barrier can disrupt satellite-based communication systems, according to NASA, and require further study. When the five rockets launch, each rocket will produce chemical contrails visible to us at the surface. These contrails will provide crucial information about the wind speeds high above the ground and how they mix at that level. People watching along the Eastern Seaboard from South Carolina through Virginia into southern New England, given mostly clear skies, should have been able to see the contrails. Research cameras at the ground watched the launches from New Jersey, Virginia and North Carolina to monitor contrail patterns.

MAP: NASA ATREX

PHOTO: NASA ATREX

Click here to watch a NASA/Goddard video about the ATREX mission. NASA provided a live web stream of the launches by clicking here.

You can check their website for updates on the launch opportunities, or get social media updates from their Facebook Page here and also on Twitter here.

Image Credit: NASA/Wallops

Image Credit: NASA/Wallops

–Meteorologist Carrie Rose
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