Tens of millions of Americans could be in for a dazzling optical treat Saturday evening as NASA gears up to launch its Black Brant XII sounding rocket carrying the KiNET-X payload from its Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
A four-stage Black Brant XII rocket carrying the KiNET-X payload will be launched around 2010 ET Saturday. There is a 40-minute launch window.
LAUNCH UPDATE 🚀 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. The team continues to inspect the rocket and launcher after the vehicle came in contact with a launcher support during launch preparations. pic.twitter.com/2IMEkZ8wMn— NASA Wallops (@NASA_Wallops) May 13, 2021
The rocket "will be used for the mission that includes the release of barium vapor that will form two green-violet clouds that may be visible for about 30 seconds," NASA said.
The mission is called KiNETic-scale energy and momentum transport eXperiment, or KiNet-X. Researchers want to study a fundamental problem in space plasmas: how are energy and momentum transported between different regions of space magnetically connected?
What makes this launch so different from Central Florida ones is that barium vapor tracers will be visible for much of the eastern US from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi River.
Here's an example of what millions of Americans might see on Saturday night, weather permitting, of course...
Live coverage of the launch will be made available on the Wallops IBM video site around 1940 ET on launch day.