A quick up date to my recent post on the scrubbing of the test launch of Orbital Science’s Antares rocket from the NASA Wallop’s Island Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. The purpose of this test launch was to demonstrate the commercial viability of this rocket as part of a NASA program to move a good deal of the space program into private enterprise. In fact, the success of this launch will secure for Orbital contracts for 8 resupply missions to the International Space Station, missions I believe are now being flown by Russia, which is being well compensated for same I’m sure, so it will be nice to see that money stay right here in the good ole US of A. But the part that still amazes me, astounds me actually, is that this entire effort is taking place on the northern border of the Eastern Shore, surrounded by the bucolic bays and salt meadows of the Assateague Wildlife Refuge, being as closely observed by the herd of Chincoteague wild ponies as by the throng of national media reporters staged here for this launch. Because as unlikely as it seems, something about the exact physical location of Wallops Island makes it one of the few places in the US which is perfectly positioned to most easily thrust a payload into orbit. Who would have thunk it ?
On Wednesday, after having rushed up to Wallops to see the first lift-off attempt which was unfortunately scrubbed at T minus 12 ( space jargon for cancelling the whole darn thing 12 minutes before the witching hour) because of an umbilical problem (more space lingo meaning the thingamajigg connecting to the back end might fall off too early ), we spent the rest of the evening having fun with our grandson, visiting the Refuge and having a seafood dinner at Wright’s. The flight was rescheduled for Saturday so once again, zip-zip, a one hour drive up to Wallops only to discover once we got there that it was cancelled again, this time because of excessive upper level winds ( space-speak for it’s too darn windy out there). Why on earth they couldn’t decide that an hour earlier rather than a half hour earlier is a mystery to me, but there we were again, launchless in Chincoteague.
NASA’s mission update website showed Sunday as the new reschedule date, with 5 pm designated as zero hour. So about 2 pm on Sunday we started trying to decide whether to make that whole two hour round trip for yet a third time. But since it just seemed so windy, leaves were rustling in the trees, the wind chime on the back deck was singing its little heart out, even our Soleri wind bell was clanging away, Hubby and I both agreed that no way are they doing to launch this thing today. Ha, talk about famous last words ! We flipped on NASA TV, channel 184 courtesy of Dish, about 4:30 just to double check. Voila’ , the countdown was pressing on ! I just couldn’t believe it, the mission had not been scrubbed because of the wind. And so after two false alarm trips to see the real thing, we were now going to have to watch it on TV instead of getting to see, hear and feel the entire experience parked just across Watt’s Bay from the actual launch pad. Anyway, I got my camera ready because we were pretty sure that if we rushed outside right after liftoff we would be able to see it by looking northeast across the lawn. And sure enough, there it was , streaking across the sky at a fair clip, 7900 mph according to the NASA commentator. Got a pretty good picture of the puffy white contrail, would much rather have had one of the lift-off, but it was exciting nevertheless. Congrats to all involved, a new day has dawned for Wallop’s Island, or I should say, for the the Eastern Shore’s new Mid-Atlantic Spaceport ! (Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134 Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo VA )
Tags: Antares rocket launch, Assateague Wildlife Refuge, Chincoteague Island VA, Eastern Shore of Virginia, NASA Flight Facility at Wallop's Island, Orbital Sciences Corporation, Virginia Eastern Shore