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NASA Is Launching a Rocket Toward the Space Station Tonight and You May Be Able to Spot It

Travel + Leisure logo Travel + Leisure 10/2/2020 Cailey Rizzo
a large jetliner sitting on top of a grass covered field: NASA/Patrick Black © Provided by Travel + Leisure NASA/Patrick Black

Space enthusiasts on the East Coast may be able to watch a NASA rocket launch from their backyard tonight.

NASA will launch the Antares Rocket carrying 8,000 lbs of supplies for the International Space Station at 9:16 p.m. EDT on Friday from Wallops, Va. The mission was originally slated for Oct. 1 but has been postponed.

Anyone looking towards the sky tonight should keep an eye out for light that looks like a bright, moving star. Better yet, anyone with binoculars may be able to see a small, v-shaped contrail from the rocket.

After about 3.5 minutes after takeoff, the rocket will pass the speed of sound and shut down its liquid-fueled main engines and the second stage will launch the spacecraft into orbit. From the ground, it will appear that the rocket is dipping back down towards Earth as it moves into space and disappears beyond the horizon, towards the International Space Station.


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NASA released a map with visibility predictions for many parts of the coast. Skywatchers from Massachusetts down to the Carolinas may be able to watch the rocket take off. The further away you are located from the rocket launch site, the closer to the horizon it will appear. For viewers in New York City, the rocket will appear about nine degrees above the horizon. “As a reference, your clenched fist held at arm's length is roughly 10 degrees in width,” according to Space.com.

a large jetliner sitting on top of a grass covered field: The mission was originally slated for Oct. 1 but has been postponed. © NASA/Patrick Black The mission was originally slated for Oct. 1 but has been postponed.

Of course, visibility is reliant upon clear skies. If the night is cloudy or if you live outside of the visibility zone, you’ll also be able to watch the launch online from NASA TV.

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Those in the immediate area can watch the launch from select viewing locations on Chincoteague Island.

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. When in a new city, she's usually out to discover under-the-radar art, culture, and secondhand stores. No matter her location, you can find her on Twitter, on Instagram or at caileyrizzo.com.

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