8th try: NASA aims for Sunday night launch for sounding rocket

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (Delmarva Now) -- No need to wait until 9 p.m. Saturday to find out if NASA will launch its much-anticipated, long-delayed sounding rocket from Wallops Flight Center. The weather won't work Saturday, NASA says, so the launch is now scheduled for Sunday, June 18, with a window from 9:05 to 9:20 p.m. 

People have waited outside or pulled up NASA's live stream to watch the launch repeatedly since May 31, only to see nothing. Reasons for canceling the launch have ranged from high winds, cloud cover, and boats in the hazard area, NASA said.

Provided it can get off the ground, the flight of the Terrier Improved Malemute rocket is designed to test a new system of deploying canisters that release blue-green and red vapor to form artificial clouds, which are used in studying the ionosphere and aurora, scientists say.

People may be able to see the clouds along the mid-Atlantic from New York to North Carolina, NASA said. 

Previously, the clouds could only be released in the immediate area of the payload. This time, a new ejection system will fire 10 canisters, each about the size of a soda can, between 6 and 12 miles away from the main payload.

The canisters are set to be deployed between four and five and a half minutes after launch. The clouds help scientists on the ground visually track particle motions in space. Scientists will use ground cameras based at Wallops and Duck, North Carolina, to monitor the results.

Using the new deployment method should allow scientists to study the particles over a much wider area, NASA said.

The vapor "tracers" consist of chemicals such as barium, strontium and cupric-oxide. They are to be released at altitudes 96-124 miles high and pose "absolutely no hazard" to residents along the mid-Atlantic coast, officials say.

The visitors center at Wallops will open at 8 p.m. Sunday for people to watch the flight. Live coverage is also slated to begin at 8:50 p.m. on the Wallops Ustream site, and at 8:50 p.m. on the NASA Wallops Facebook page.  

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