Sounding rocket launch from Wallops may produce colorful clouds

The RockOn! VIII launched the RockSat-C payload on a Terrier Mk12 – Improved Orion sounding rocket June 25, 2015. [NASA photo]

A three-stage suborbital sounding rocket is scheduled for launch Wednesday afternoon for the Department of Defense from NASA’s launch range at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

The launch will study ionization in space just beyond the reaches of Earth’s atmosphere.

After flying to an altitude of several hundred miles and about 500 miles off-shore, the rocket’s payload will release a small quantity of vapor – an amount equivalent to about two BBQ grill propane tanks – into the near-vacuum of space.  There is no danger to public health or the Earth’s environment from the vapor release.

After the vapor release, colorful clouds may be visible over the ocean to residents in the mid-Atlantic and southeastern United States as the Sun illuminates the vapor before it diffuses harmlessly into space.

NASA officials say there is no exact timeframe for when the rocket will launch and no real-time launch status updates will be available. The launch will not be shown live on the Internet nor will launch status updates be provided during the countdown on social media.  The NASA Visitor Center at Wallops will not be open for viewing the launch.

This story originally appeared on OBXToday.com. Read More local stories here.