Wallops Island Launches Test Rocket And Hopes For More | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

WAMU 88.5 : Morning Edition

Filed Under:

Wallops Island Launches Test Rocket And Hopes For More

Play associated audio
The Wallops Island Flight Facility is one of NASA's oldest facilities. It's still one of the busiest rocket launch sites in the country.
(U.S. Army photo/Patrick Bloodgood) http://www.flickr.com/photos/armyengineersnorfolk/5534202141/
The Wallops Island Flight Facility is one of NASA's oldest facilities. It's still one of the busiest rocket launch sites in the country.

NASA scientists and engineers are hoping this week's rocket launch from Wallops Island in Virginia may be a sign of the commonwealth's increasing role in the space industry. The launch of a rocket Monday carrying an inflatable heat shield was a success, according to Kathy Barnstorff, a spokeswoman for the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.

"If you can pack an inflatable inside a rocket, send it up into space and then inflate it while you are in space, that means you might be able to take even more instruments and more gear," Barnstorff says.

It survived the 20-minute flight through the earth's atmosphere at speeds of up to 7,600 mph. Then, the Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment separated from the launch vehicle's nose cone approximately 300 miles above the Atlantic Ocean. 

Scientists wanted to see if a space capsule can use an inflatable outer shell to slow and protect itself as it enters an atmosphere.

"It's a pretty exciting time for NASA because we are looking at these really cool destinations and trying to get even further out into the solar system like perhaps even someday landing humans on Mars," says Barnstorff.

Although NASA's space shuttle program has ended, Wallops Island director Bill Wrobel hopes the facility could gain because of the private space industry.

"Orbital Sciences is planning to launch their Antares vehicle out of here this fall, and so that will be spectacular," Wrobel says. "And they have a number of those missions, eight of them, coming up over the next couple of years."

That could mean even more new jobs in Virginia's burgeoning space industry.

"There's clearly been a lot of folks who have been working the launch pad for the state of Virginia, and that has certainly brought in some jobs," Wrobel says.

Next month, NASA plans to land a science laboratory on Mars — a mission that will benefit from this week's rocket launch on Wallops Island.

NPR

For The Midterm Elections, A Book On 'What It Takes' To Win

The midterm elections are less than two weeks away. Writer Michael Schaub recommends a book that explores what it's like to run for office and live through all the dramatic ups and downs.
NPR

A Wisecracking Biochemist Shares Her Kitchen ABCs

Shirley Corriher, author of Cookwise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Cooking, has tips on taking the bitter bite out of coffee, and holding onto cabbage's red hue while it's in the pan.
NPR

For The Midterm Elections, A Book On 'What It Takes' To Win

The midterm elections are less than two weeks away. Writer Michael Schaub recommends a book that explores what it's like to run for office and live through all the dramatic ups and downs.
NPR

New Facebook App A Throwback To Old Chatrooms

Facebook's new app, Rooms, harkens back to the days of 1990s anonymous chat rooms. New York Times tech reporter, Mike Isaac, talks about why having secret identities online is a good thing.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.