Tonight: Smartphones in spaaaaace!

The Minotaur 1 rocket is set for launch tonight, November 19, sometime between 7:30 and 9:30 pm. The excellent weather conditions mean one awesome thing – just about anyone on the East Coast will be able to see the launch with the naked eye.

launch map

The Wallops Flight Facility is just south and east of us on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. From here, NASA launches its smaller payloads into space, and recently that includes smartphone-based satellites and tiny payloads called CubeSats. These four-inch-long, three-pound nanosatellites pack a lot of interesting into a small space – and more than a few have been developed by university and high school students.

Today’s payload includes Drexel University’s DragonSat-1 (testing the deployment of a gravity gradient boom) and PhoneSat 2.4 (evaluating the effectiveness of cheap, commercial-off-the-shelf hardware for use in space – to hopefully increase the capabilities and lower the cost of flight hardware).

Here are the details on all 29 tiny satellites:

http://www.space.com/23646-ors3-rocket-launch-satellites-description.html

And helpful guides to seeing the launch from Wallops anywhere along the East Coast:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/19/nasa-minotaur-rocket-launch-east-coast-livestream_n_4295726.html

I haven’t watched any Wallops launches, but my best guess for convenient Philly viewing (to the south/southeast) would be climbing the Art Museum Steps, getting to any clear hill in Fairmount, or maybe even scooting out to Hill Field will do the trick. If Fairmount is too far but Penn is too close to home, my money is also on the field at 32nd, Baring, 31st and Powelton for good viewing – and, most likely – some Drexel kids cheering on the home team.

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