How to see Monday’s rocket launch from Wallops Island, Virginia

By Brian Lada, AccuWeather meteorologist and staff writer
May 21, 2018, 2:45:09 AM EDT

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Early risers across the mid-Atlantic may get to see a rocket launch from their backyard on Monday morning as it climbs high in the sky on its way to space.

An Antares rocket is set to launch from Wallops Island, Virginia, on a mission to deliver supplies to the International Space Station (ISS), orbiting 250 miles above the Earth.

Larger rockets like this that launch from Wallops Island are able to be seen in the sky from Connecticut to North Carolina when conditions are right.

Liftoff was originally set for early Sunday morning but was moved to early Monday morning to allow more time for pre-launch inspections and for more favorable weather conditions.

Liftoff is set for 4:39 a.m. EDT Monday, May 21, prior to sunrise.

antares rocket

Orbital ATK's Antares rocket lifts off from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017. The rocket is carrying cargo to the International Space Station. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Monday’s launch will be a great opportunity for people across the region to see a rocket fly into space without having to travel to Florida or California.

Those that want to experience the launch up close can travel to the NASA Wallops Visitor Center viewing site situated just miles away from the launch pad.

The launch can also be viewed from other locations around the facility, including some of the nearby beaches.

Those farther away should still be able to see the glow of the engines as the rocket climbs higher in the atmosphere. This will appear as a yellow ball of light slowly moving in the sky in the direction of Wallops Island, Virginia.

People closer to the launch site will start to see the rocket seconds after liftoff while areas farther away will have to wait one or two minutes before it becomes visible.

wallops rocket viewing

Dry and mostly cloudy conditions are in the forecast for Wallops Island early on Monday morning with a 75 percent chance of acceptable weather for the launch.

There should be enough breaks in the clouds for some spectators farther away to see the launch, including those near Philadelphia and New York City.

However, clouds will interfere with viewing conditions for many from central Virginia through North Carolina.

If the launch is scrubbed on Monday morning due to weather or technical issues, it will be postponed until Tuesday morning at a similar time.

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The Antares rocket will be sending the un-crewed Cygnus spacecraft into orbit around the Earth, where it will eventually dock with the ISS.

“The Cygnus spacecraft will carry crew supplies, scientific research and hardware to the orbiting laboratory to support the Expedition 55 and 56 crews,” NASA said.

In addition to its mission to the ISS, the spacecraft will also send miniature satellites, known as CubeSats, into Earth’s orbit. Some CubeSats can be smaller than the size of a toaster and are cheaper to manufacture and launch than a typical satellite.

“After the Cygnus spacecraft delivers more than 7,000 pounds of cargo, it'll depart from the Space Station and deploy the CubeSats,” NASA Wallops said.

The next major rocket launch from Wallops Island, Virginia, is slated for November.

Questions or comments? Email Brian Lada at and be sure to follow him on Twitter!

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