By Peter Covino
Star-gazers and space enthusiasts will have another reason to search the skies tomorrow night and until the wee hours of the morning Thursday.
Starting at 8 p.m. and continuing overnight, a 150-watt, 25-millimeter green laser beam will shoot into the heavens from the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex as part of the launch of Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), the test flight of the uncrewed Orion spacecraft. The green beam will signify a “go” launch for the rocket.
EFT-1, featuring the Orion capsule aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket, is set to lift off from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station as early as 7:05 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 4. The test flight represents a significant first step toward sending astronauts to Mars. And, the laser beam will light the way to launch from 8 p.m. Dec. 3 until 7 a.m. Dec. 4.
What can we expect to see in places as far apart as Kissimmee, St. Cloud and Orlando?
Only time and clear skies, will tell.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex officials are as curious as the public and just what will be visible.
“It will be as visible as a rocket launch, but we really don’t know until we do it and people let us know how far away they were able to see it. Since it’s the first time for the laser beam, we will just have to wait and see,” a spokesperson said.
Officials are encouraging star-gazers and space enthusiasts to go outdoors tomorrow night and Thursday morning and take pictures of the laser and post them on Instagram and Twitter and tag it with #Orion and #AlwaysExploring. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will then share the best photos.
Designed to be a guiding light to launch viewing for Orion, the laser beam at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is the most powerful laser ever used on Kennedy Space Center property. The laser beam also is a representation of Kennedy Space Center’s ongoing commitment to laser technology. A laser testing area at Kennedy Space Center is run by the University of Central Florida via a space act agreement with NASA. In addition, there have been various tests of lasers at KSC, including lasers on Morpheus to scan for a landing site; the Curiosity rover’s laser was tested at KSC before launching; and Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS), which is an optical communication experiment on the International Space Station, developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The public is encouraged to post photos of the laser on Instagram and Twitter and tag it with #Orion and #AlwaysExploring.
The ongoing Kennedy Space Center launch schedule is available at www.kennedyspacecenter.com/events.