Posted: April 14th, 2019
NASA has been launching small rockets from Wallops Island (the Barrier Island to south of Chincoteague) since 1945. In recent years, however, Wallops has become better known for the large scale rocket launch taking place from the facility. Rockets like Northrup Grumman’s Antares, which routinely launches from Wallops Island, carrying supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).
Antares rocket lifts off from Pad-0B on Wallops Island
NASA Wallops Visitor Center
The NASA Wallops Visitor Center is located approximately 4 miles from the launch pads with a clear view of every launch from ground to sky. Parking is available on a first come, first served basis. The Visitor Center launch viewing area consists of two bleachers and an open field.
During a launch the Visitor Center exhibit hall is open to explore and Range Control Center system checks play over the PA system.
Please note the following if you plan to watch a launch at the NASA Wallops Visitor Center:
Chincoteague Island Waterman’s Memorial at Mariners Point looking south towards Wallops Island
Mariners Point is located at the southern tip of Chincoteague Island, near Curtis Merritt Harbor. It is the site of the Chincoteague Island Waterman’s Memorial. Visitors to this location should park at the south end of Curtis Merritt Harbor and walk up the hill (follow the signs). Beware that parking may be limited during launch events.
This location offers direct and unobstructed views of Wallops Island rocket launches.
Maddox Blvd near Assateague Bridge
Maddox Blvd – from the Museum of Chincoteague Island to the bridge to Assateague Island – also offers unobstructed views of rocket launches from Wallops Island. Note that you will need to park on the side of road or in McDonald’s parking lot.
Please note that the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and Assateague Island National Seashore (Virginia District) is typically closed during large scale rocket launches. Please check the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge website for closure information.
If you can’t make it here for a launch, but you live along the East Coast (especially the mid-Atlantic region), there is a good chance a large scale rocket launch from Wallops Island will be visible in your area.
Launch Visibility Maps are typically posted to the NASA Wallops Flight Facility website (https://www.nasa.gov/centers/wallops/home) and WFF Mission Status Center Webpage (https://sites.wff.nasa.gov/wmsc/).
Example Visibility Map showing predicted visibility of a recent Anatares launch
Be sure to check the status of launches on a regular basis because launch dates and times are subject to change or cancelation in advance or at the last minute. A variety of unforeseen circumstances can cause a launch to be postponed.
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Sara Daisey authors the Chincoteague.com Blog. She resides on Chincoteague Island with her husband Ted and three children, Garrett, Morgan, and Jenna.