NASA is launching a rocket Tuesday evening that will eject red smoke above Earth, creating a colorful display that will be visible along the East Coast. For those who won’t be in the visibility area, there is a live stream.
The "sounding" rocket is part of a test of data gathering tools. The launch is scheduled for between 5:30 and 6:50 p.m. EST from the Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va. It will be visible as far north as Connecticut, NASA says.
The launch will send a Terrier-Improved Orion sounding rocket into suborbital space. The rocket will release red-colored lithium vapor that will form clouds in different parts of the atmosphere. According to Libby West, mission project manager at the NASA Sounding Rocket Program Office, “This launch is a technology test flight for two upcoming missions. We will be testing two different methods for creating the lithium vapor to determine which configuration is best for observing various science phenomena in space.”
Tuesday's launch is the first of three planned missions to test lithium vapor mixtures that will help researchers observe space phenomena. In April, NASA will test a sounding rocket at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands and in June at Wallops again.
“Two canisters in the rocket’s payload section will contain solid metal lithium rods or chips embedded in a thermite cake," says NASA. "The thermite is ignited and produces heat to vaporize the lithium. The vapor is released in space and can be detected and tracked optically.”
NASA says the public is in no danger from the launch or the subsequent release of the lithium vapors. On Facebook, Wallops Flight Facility is saying the launch is scheduled for 5:50 p.m., although the live stream will begin at 4:30 p.m.
A photo of the visibility area is attached to this article. The live stream can be viewed below.
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