After several failed launches due to weather, the KiNET-X mission aboard a Black Brant XII rocket blasted off from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia at 8:36 pm on Sunday.
NASA’s KiNET-X mission will study energy and winds in different regions of the atmosphere. It will do that by creating two harmless vapor clouds. Its vapor tracers are made with the same materials used to make fireworks so colorful. As with your July 4 fireworks, these materials are harmless to people on the ground.
First photos are in! 🤩
A Black Brant XII carrying the KiNET-X payload launched from Wallops Flight Facility on May 16, 2021, at 8:44 p.m. EDT. The mission released vapor tracers to explore energy transfer in space.
📸 Did you see the launch? Share your photos below with us! pic.twitter.com/PbTJbTRdFE
— NASA Wallops (@NASA_Wallops) May 17, 2021
KiNET-X’s launch was just in time, as the launch window was set to expire with less than 10 minutes remaining. If NASA’s launch hadn’t been conducted on Sunday, it would have been delayed until later this year due to the difficulty of seeing the release of vapors because of the position of the moon.
“The moon will begin to be too high above the horizon at sunset, so it will be too bright to be able to see vapor tracers in the sky,” NASA had posted on Twitter earlier on Sunday.
But why? 🤔
Scientist use vapor tracers primarily to study atmospheric winds in upper atmosphere and ionosphere. When released after launch, the tracers make it possible to directly observe the winds. The vapors release harmlessly between 217-249 miles above the Earth. pic.twitter.com/6i7b9aAW6f
— NASA Wallops (@NASA_Wallops) May 7, 2021
NASA said that depending on weather conditions and cloud cover on the East Coast, the greenish-violet vapor tracers may have been seen from Maine all the way to Central Florida and as far inland as the Mississippi River along with Bermuda — the area in which the barium vapors were released into the sky.
KiNET-X Finally Breaks its Unlucky Streak
Sunday’s launch was NASA’s eighth and last attempt to launch a rocket from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
The rocket launch was initially scheduled for last Friday, May 7, but it was postponed hours in advance due to poor weather conditions.
On Tuesday night, with the launch counting down to just a minute away from blastoff, cloudy skies at both the Wallops Flight Facility and over the skies in Bermuda forced its cancellation.
Adding to NASA’s frustration, the launch was scrubbed on Wednesday night after inspections of the rocket were ordered after the rocket came in contact with a metal piece of the launcher support structure during launch preparations at the agency’s flight facility in Virginia.
Cloudy skies over Bermuda had canceled Saturday’s scheduled launch.
Yet, finally, NASA caught a break on Sunday and the KiNET-X mission is out there advancing science.