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A NASA rocket launch off the East Coast was scrapped three times. Here’s why

But if all goes well Tuesday, Southern New England could be in for a brief light show.

The KiNET-X sounding rocket is set to launch from a NASA facility in Virginia.
The KiNET-X sounding rocket is set to launch from a NASA facility in Virginia.NASA/Twitter

Maybe the fourth time’s a charm?

NASA was initially set to launch a rocket from its Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Saturday night, potentially offering East Coast residents a brief light show if weather permitted. But the launch was canceled.

The agency rescheduled the launch for Sunday night, but again called it off and postponed it for the next night. Then the same thing happened on Monday.

So, what’s the deal?

Each time the launch has been canceled, NASA has cited weather conditions, saying on Twitter that “the launch has been postponed due to upper level winds not being within the required limits for a safe launch.”

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Before the scheduled launch windows, NASA’s Wallops facility has said on Twitter that it’s continuing to evaluate the wind conditions to see if the launch can take place.

The cancellations have built up anticipation and tested the patience of East Coast space fans who — if the skies are clear enough from their viewing point — might only be able to see less than a minute of action. Many took to Twitter in response to NASA’s tweet to note that they’d be outside waiting — again.

The launch has been rescheduled for Tuesday night no later than 8:05 p.m. with a 40-minute launch window, the agency said.

Should the launch take place Tuesday night, Massachusetts residents are in luck. Clear skies are expected in most areas across the state, according to Hayden Frank, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service.

“We could have some scattered, patchy clouds around in the afternoon into the evening, but those should dissipate shortly after sunset, so it looks like skies will probably be mostly clear tonight across the state,” Frank said.

Areas of southeastern Massachusetts, like Plymouth and Taunton, might have more clouds than other areas, he added.

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The rocket will release barium vapor that will form two green and violet clouds that could be visible for about 30 seconds, NASA previously said in a statement.

“The vapor will be released approximately 9 minutes and 30 seconds to around 10 minutes after launch at about 217-249 miles altitude over the Atlantic Ocean and 540-560 miles downrange from Wallops and just north of Bermuda,” the statement said.

The agency noted that “the human eye does not see violet colors very well in darkness,” so the clouds from this launch will be harder to see than previous missions.

The rocket is part of a mission to explore energy transport in space.

Those who are interested in watching the launch online can tune in here, with coverage beginning at 7:40 p.m.


Amanda Kaufman can be reached at amanda.kaufman@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandakauf1.