WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (WRIC) — NASA will be launching a sounding rocket to test science equipment for future space missions from Wallops Island sometime within a four-hour timeframe on Tuesday, Aug. 23 into Wednesday morning.

The Sporadic-E ElectroDynamics Demonstration mission, or SpEED Demon, will fly new instruments and equipment alongside other science equipment that has flown on other sounding rocket missions. NASA said in a release that the purpose of the mission is for the overall improvement of the SpEED Demon instruments, so the instruments can then fly on a mission slated for 2024.

The 40-foot tall sounding rocket will launch between 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 23, and 1 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 24 out of the Wallops Fight Facility. Backup launch dates are Aug. 24 through Aug 27.

How to watch:

  • The NASA Wallops Visitor Center will open to the public at 8 p.m. on launch day
  • The rocket launch is expected to be visible from the mid-Atlantic/Chesapeake Bay region
  • Live coverage of the mission is scheduled to begin at 8:40 p.m. on the Wallops YouTube site.

NASA said that while the main purpose of the SpEED Demon launch is to test the instruments, “scientists are hopeful that they may be able to measure sporadic-E layers in the ionosphere, the electrified upper portion of Earth’s atmosphere that’s made of ionized gas called plasma.”

According to Aroh Barjatya, SpEED Demon principal investigator and director of the Space and Atmospheric Instrumentation Lab at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, “Sporadic-E layers are like patchy, invisible clouds of dense plasma that sometimes disrupt radio communications.”

Barjatya said gaining a better understanding of these layers seen throughout the globe will help to assist with modeling and predicting the occurrences accurately.

Since the SpEED Demon is designed to test technology, it will not stop and wait for the perfect conditions to test for the sporadic-E layers. Though, Barajatya hopes luck might be in their favor, as the launch window is at the tail end of the northern hemisphere sporadic-E layer season.