The test flight for a space capsule system intended to help resupply the International Space Station is scheduled to launch from the Virginia coastline on Wednesday.
If weather conditions are favorable, the craft may be visible from Oakton and the greater Virginia area as it ascends into orbit.
The Antares rocket, developed by Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corporation, is expected to launch at 5 p.m., though the launch window extends until 8 p.m. should weather or other factors require a delay.
The Los Angeles Times reports that it will be carrying a roughly four-ton dummy payload intended to simulate the company's Cygnus space capsule, which NASA and the company hope will soon be transporting materials to the space station.
Orbital, whose earlier Pegasus rocket was the first privately developed space launch vehicle, has a $1.9 billion deal with NASA to conduct eight unmanned Cygnus resupply trips to the space station.The Cygnus capsule itself is under construction and is scheduled for its first trip to the space station in November, according to Space.com.
Since NASA discontinued the Space Shuttle program in 2011, supplies headed for the station have traveled in Russian-made Soyuz space capules.
How and When to Watch
In our area, the rocket is expected to rise no more than 10 degrees above the horizon. That's roughly the height of an adult's fist held at arm's length. If you want to attempt to view the launch, seek an area with a clear view of the southeastern horizon.
The Wednesday evening forecast for Oakton calls for partly cloudy skies (and nice viewing temperatures at 72 degrees).
The rocket should become visible in the southeastern sky between two and three minutes after it lifts off in Virginia.
To watch the launch live online―or to confirm that it's going forward while you stand outside and look for it―visit Space.com's live stream from NASA TV. NASA's coverage is scheduled to run from 4:00 p.m. until 5:25 p.m.