Watching a rocket launch is the most wholesome and exciting activity besides going on a roller coaster or eating large quantities of cheese. Today, at around 1:11AM AEST, NASA, in coordination with United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Orbital ATK, will take things to the next level — the agency will be broadcasting the first-ever 360 degree live stream of a rocket launch.
Image: United Launch Alliance
This morning's launch from pad 41 in Cape Canaveral, Florida is a resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Orbital ATK's Cygnus spacecraft will launch on a ULA Atlas V rocket, ferrying up about 3500kg of supplies to the space station, including research materials and hardware. Thankfully, no one's sending any deadly pathogens to the ISS this time!
One experiment making its way to the space station is the Zero Boil-Off Tank (ZBOT), which will use an "experimental fluid" to investigate fluid mixing in microgravity. Its aim is to help NASA choose cost effective options with its rocket fuel, which is made of cryogenic liquids.
"Whenever you're taking a road trip, one of your main concerns is whether you have a full tank of gas or not," ZBOT principal investigator Dr Mohammed Kassemi, chief scientist at NASA Glenn Research Center, told Gizmodo. "The same is true with NASA going to other planets. NASA wants to know that they have enough fuel to take [the spacecraft] to and from the location in a cost-effective way."
NASA will additionally be sending up another iteration of the spacecraft fire experiment called Saffire-III, because who doesn't want to know how things combust in the confinement of a metal can where no one can hear you scream?
The coolest part about watching the launch is definitely the 360 viewing, which means that anyone watching the live stream can use their mouse to "look" up, down and all around at the launch. According to NASA, you can even watch it on the YouTube app. If you have a VR headset handy, you'll be able to experience the whole thing from the pad without even buying a ticket to Florida.
As always, ad astra! You can check out the live stream here or below. Rocket-related programming starts at 12:00AM AEST.