Wallops Launch Viewing Guide

Written by: Kyle Henry

Next Launch

Sounding Rockets

A Black Brant IX sounding rocket is currently scheduled for NET than December 6, 2021. The launch will carry the DLX-3 mission. A launch time will be determined closer to the launch.


Orbital Launches

Currently no orbital launches are scheduled for the remainder of year. The next orbital launch will either be electrons first launch or NG-17 which is currently scheduled for NET February.

For real time updates follow @NASA_Wallops on twitter


Rocket Labs is still waiting on certification of their Automated Flight Termination System (AFTS). Wallops expects certification to be completed by the end of the year. Once completed their first launch will follow soon after.


Milky Way over the launch pads

Basic Tips

- If you are setting up cameras get there as early as possible.

- I’d generally recommend getting to where you're going at least 3 hours before if you're setting up cameras

- Mosquitos in the summer are terrible around the marshy areas in wallops bring bug spray and wear long clothes to avoid getting bit.

- Wallops is very rural and Cell Service is not great in a lot of these areas, I have T-mobile as my provider but I've also had Virgin mobile and didn’t notice much difference

- While service may appear good a few hours before launch in some areas, as more people come to the area bandwidth gets used up very quickly and all the sudden there's no service

- Wallops has some of the darkest Skys I’ve seen at night. So if you want good pictures of the milky way this is the place to be. On the same note, a lot of these areas are by marshes and water so if you have small children at night make sure to watch them and remember to bring flashlights (red flashlights work great and are easier on the eyes for night sky photos)

- When parking make sure to back in so it's easier getting out after launch

- The livestreams that NASA puts out for launches will generally be between 10-30 secs behind real time. So, pay attention to the launch pads and don't rely on the streams. 


Spotting the pads

Locations

All distances are calculated based on Pad 0A. Pad 0B is about 1/4 mile south of Pad 0A and LC-2 is less than 500 feet from Pad 0A. So, Since they are all so close and currently Pad 0A is used most often I used it as the standard and rounded to the nearest 1/10 of a mile.

Pad 1A and 1B are new launch pads that haven’t been used yet and no company has publicly expressed interest in using the pads (though the pads would be perfect for Astra and they have said that they are looking at areas all over the US) but they are located about a 1/4 mile south of pad 0B.


Click to open Google Map

Arbuckle Neck Road (1.7 Miles)

Directions

Used to be the best spot to go to for launches, then Antares decided it wanted to try to land and debris from the explosion landed too close. Closed for Orbital launches of Antares and Minotaur. More than likely will be closed for Electron and Neutron as well but we don’t have that information yet. Left open for Sounding rocket launches. If you are looking to get some telephoto shots of the launch sites before a launch this is the place to go.


Wallops Press Site (2.1 Miles)

Directions

Location for those with media access not open to public. Also where those invited on a NASA Social will view the launch from.

NASA plays the countdown audio in real-time over speakers so there’s no need to worry about internet delay on streams. Wallops used to put up a giant tent for the press to congregate under before launch but since COVID hit they haven’t and it remains to be seen if they will once COVID restrictions are lifted fully. In any case, they have recently been doing a car caravan out to the viewing area instead of bussing press so you at least have your car to go into to wait out rain or weather.


Old Wallops Ferry Dock (2.2 Miles)

Directions

The closest public place to see a launch in the US that is always open. If you are setting up cameras you want to be there early (I’d recommend at least 3 hours before T-0) and set up in a way that no one can stand in front of you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten there early set up hours in advance just for someone who shows up 10 minutes before launch to try to stand in front of my cameras. I recommend setting up on the piers so people won’t try to but those piers also get very crowded. Also depending on the time of year the bushes can be very overgrown and block a lot of the view. There is a small park and covered picnic area so if you have young kids they can be occupied in the hours that you could be waiting for launch. Unfortunately, the best you can do for bathrooms is walking into the heavy tree areas behind the docks.

The ferry dock now requires a parking pass to park here. $7 for a daily pass and $40 for an annual pass. More info here:

More info here:

https://www.co.accomack.va.us/departments/public-works/public-boating-facilities/boating-facilities-parking-permit



Wisharts Point Rd (3.3 Miles)

Directions

From here the pads are behind the bridge that leads to wallops island but is still visible between the support beams. This allows for some interesting launch pictures. I’ve never been there for launch so I don’t know how crowded it gets but there is a fair amount of parking so as long as you get there early enough you should be able to get a good spot to view the launch.



Hogs Neck (3.3 Miles)

Directions

Private community. I've heard that they let people view from here but when I checked out the area last time I was down there were private community and no trespassing signs up.


Gargartha Landing (5.7 Miles)

Directions

The southernmost point on this list. Small parking area at the docks but a long road leading up to the area that cars could park along. A parking permit is required for this area, but it's the same as the one needed for the Ferry Docks and a single pass will work at both locations (see above).


Mariner’s Point (6.4 Miles)

Directions

Note: for some reason, this location was closed for the launch of NROL-111 however this is the first time I’ve seen them close it.

From here the launch pads are not visible at all except for the very top of the water tower at launchpad 0A. Meaning once the rocket clears the tower it would become visible. This spot also has a legit public bathroom. The viewing area is right on a ~20 foot Clift into rocks and water so definitely be watching kids if you go to this spot.


Wallops Visitor Center (7.4 Miles)

Directions

Closed due to COVID-19 since March 2020 (the last update came on August 13, 2021).

The visitor center has free admission and has some of the sounding rockets that launch from wallops on display. Once I get down there when it's open I will update this with pictures.

If you are parking in the grass be very careful if it has rained recently, time got my car stuck in the mud, and had to have someone help pull my car out. VC has an indoor area to escape the elements if needed.


Queens Sound (7.9 Miles)

Directions

This area has very limited parking. Located along the causeway into Chincoteague. This causeway backs up after a launch so getting out of this spot might be a pain if you stick around too long after launch.


Assateague Island National Seashore (8.5 Miles)

Directions

Cost: $10.00 for 1 day, $25.00 for 7 days, and $45 for an annual pass (prices come from entering the park from the Virginia side.)

From most of the park, the launch pads aren’t visible but as you get closer to the beach part of the park you can see them. I’ve marked the two areas where I stopped and took pictures to get some reference as to where in the park you can park and see the launch pads. In my experience, Assateague is usually closed for launches but there have been rare occasions where the park is open hence why I’m putting it on the list. For up to date info be sure to follow @ChincoteagueNWR on Twitter or check their website at https://www.fws.gov/refuge/chincoteague/


Reference Photos