WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (WRIC) — Later this week, NASA will launch two Improved-Orion suborbital sounding rockets into the mesosphere from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.

The mesosphere is the layer of Earth’s atmosphere between approximately 31 and 53 miles altitude and is a key region for studying meteors, noctilucent clouds, and upper atmospheric chemistry and winds.

The upcoming launches are scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 9, and will feature a pair of smaller, inexpensive rockets from NASA’s fleet. Because the rockets only measure 71 and 83 inches in length, respectively, NASA believes they will have minimal disruption in the investigated area.

Due to their unique size, these rockets can be launched simultaneously at different angles to provide better spatial coverage or in quick succession over the course of several hours.

For this particular launch, both are expected to reach 71 miles altitude, where they will be tested on aerodynamic stability and performance. They will launch about 30 minutes apart between 8 to 10 a.m.

Illustrations of the two different payload design sections that will be launched on two sounding rockets to test a new capability to study the mesosphere. (Photo Credit: NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility)

“The use of the nine-foot-tall Orion motor, a surplus military rocket, looks feasible to meet the requirements,” said Giovanni Rosanova, NASA’s Sounding Rockets Program Office chief. “This will continue the history of the program using excess rockets for affordable scientific research.”

NASA Wallops will host a live stream on their YouTube page beginning 15 minutes before the first scheduled launch. For those looking to attend, the launch viewing area inside the Wallops Visitor Center will open at 7:30 a.m.