A NASA-funded rocket launch next week will be visible along the East Coast, including in Philadelphia.
An Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket bound for the International Space Station is scheduled to take off at 9:42 p.m., Wednesday, from the NASA Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Va.
Weather permitting, the rocket will be able to be seen in Philadelphia beginning around 9:43 p.m., where it will reach a maximum of height of about 10 degrees above the city's horizon. A graphic on Orbital Sciences' website simulating a southwestern vantage point from the Philadelphia Museum of Art shows the rocket will first be visible near 30th Street Station and will then arc across the sky above Liberty Place and fade from view before it reaches City Hall.
The rocket will be carrying Orbital Sciences' unmanned, expendable Cygnus cargo spacecraft loaded with over 3,000 pounds of supplies, including provisions, spare parts and science equipment, for the Expedition 38 crew members currently stationed at the orbiting laboratory. Also aboard the flight will be 23 life science experiments that involve more than 10,000 students on the ground and whose topics range from amoeba reproduction to salamanders.
Cygnus is scheduled to berth with the ISS Dec. 21, where it will remain for 42 days as the station crew loads it with materials for disposal. It will then depart and be purposely destroyed as it reenters the Earth's atmosphere.
The rocket trip — christened Orb-1 — is the first of eight commercial cargo resupply missions to the ISS under a $1.9 billion contract between NASA and Orbital Sciences. Orbital launched its first Cygnus spacecraft in September for a demonstration mission funded with NASA seed money to replace cargo delivery duties previously undertaken by the agency's now-retired Space Shuttle program.
Live coverage of the Orb-1 launch will be available on NASA's website and the Wallops UStream channel.
Android users can also download the "What's Up at Wallops" app for launch information and precise viewing directions.