NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft will launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va. Launch is targeted for 11:27 p.m. EDT at the opening of a four-minute launch window. NASA Television launch coverage begins at 9:30 p.m. so folks around the world can watch the rocket take off on NASA TV.
Why watch? This is the first payload to launch on a U.S. Air Force Minotaur V rocket integrated by Orbital Sciences Corp. The first three stages of the five-stage rocket are repurposed from a ballistic missile. It is also the first lunar launch from the NASA Wallops facility.
“The Minotaur V design builds on Orbital’s proven systems engineering, production, test and flight operations supporting the Minotaur family of rockets, creating another cost-effective launch alternative for U.S. government space missions,” said Mr. Lou Amorosi, Senior Vice President of Orbital’s Small Space Launch Vehicle business. “We look forward to the successful launch of the LADEE orbiter and the opportunity to continue supporting NASA in its exploration and science missions.”
The goal of the LADEE mission is to study the surface of the moon and the super-thin lunar atmosphere in order to hopefully offer new insight into several mysteries of the moon, including if its glow is caused by lunar dust.
This map below shows the maximum elevation (degrees above the horizon) that the Minotaur V rocket will reach depending on your location along the east coast. The further away you are from the launch site, the closer to the horizon the rocket will be. As a reference, when you look at your fist with your arm fully outstretched, it spans approximately 10 degrees. Thus if you are in Washington, DC the highest point the Minotaur V will reach is approximately 13 degrees above the horizon, or just slightly more than a fist’s width. The contours shown stop below 5 degrees. It is unlikely that you’ll be able to view the rocket when it is below 5 degrees due to buildings, vegetation, and other terrain features.