Rocket launch on Eastern Shore may cause ‘colorful clouds’ over the ocean

Katherine Hafner, The Virginian-Pilot
·1 min read

If you see mysterious colorful clouds hanging over the Atlantic Wednesday afternoon, you can thank NASA for painting the sky.

There’s a rocket launch scheduled from the Wallops Flight Facility on the upper Eastern Shore, according to an agency news release.

It’s a Department of Defense three-stage suborbital sounding rocket, also known as a research rocket, that will study ionization in space “just beyond the reaches of Earth’s atmosphere,” officials said in the release.

The plan is for the rocket to fly about 500 miles offshore and to an altitude of several hundred miles. Then it will release a small quantity of vapor — which the agency said is equivalent to about two barbecue grill propane tanks — “into the near-vacuum of space.”

Residents of the Mid-Atlantic could see colorful clouds over the ocean when the sun illuminates the vapor as it diffuses into space.

Officials emphasized there is no harm to people’s health or the environment from the vapor release.

Wednesday’s launch will not be live-streamed, nor will officials provide real-time updates on its status. The Wallops visitor center is not open for launch viewing.

Katherine Hafner, 757-222-5208, katherine.hafner@pilotonline.com