Wallops Launch Viewing Guide

Written by: Kyle Henry

Next Launch

Orbital Launches

Electron's first launch "Virginia is for Launch Lovers" from Wallops Island is currently scheduled for Dec 7th. The launch window goes from 6-8 PM; with backup opportunities available through Dec 20th. This mission will carry 3 satellites to low earth orbit for Hawkeye 360. I've confirmed with Accomack County that Arbuckle Neck Road will remain open (as of now Nov 14.). At 1.7 miles from the launch pad, it is the closest place to view the launch. Arbuckle has been closed to orbital launches since OA-3. But since Electron is a smaller rocket Arbuckle is not in the danger zone for launch. Assateague Island National Seashore closes at 6 PM over the winter and so will not be open for this first launch attempt. 

Following this launch Rocket Labs has a second Electron ready and waiting for its launch in January of 2023.

The final Antares 200 is scheduled for early 2023 and will carry the Cygnus NG-19 mission to the ISS.
Following NG-19, Northrop Grumman will partner with Firefly Aerospace to build a new US-built first stage and engines which are scheduled to be ready for flight in late 2024. In between the last Antares 200 and the first Antares 300, Northrop Grumman has purchased 3 Falcon 9 launches to cover the gap between Antares flights to ensure Cygnus is available to resupply the ISS. These 3 Falcon 9 flights will fly out of Cape Canaveral, Florida.


Sounding Rockets

There are no more sounding rockets scheduled to fly from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport for the rest of 2022.

The next sounding rocket launch from the Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport Range will be the MesOrion mission on January 13, 2023. This mission will launch on two Improved Orion sounding rockets and will occur sometime during the day. The closest place for viewing a sounding rocket launch is Arbuckle Neck Road.


For real-time updates follow @NASA_Wallops on Twitter

(Last updated on November 27, 2022)

Electron launch pad seen vertical in 2021 from Arbuckle Neck Road (1.7 miles away)

500mm Pad 0A

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 if it's an orbital rocket launch.

- For sounding rockets they're usually isn't a large turnout, so showing up with enough time to set up your equipment should be fine. (the three I've attended have had anywhere from two other people showing up to maybe 40.)

- 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 live stream 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. Unless they say an exact time and you have a watch that shows seconds.


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 clean launch pads that haven’t been used yet and no company has publicly expressed interest in using the pads 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, but 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. But left open for Electron launches and 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. Beware of mud if you park in the grass.


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 and 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. Though from what I've heard this pass is not enforced on launch day. The state police that help secure the range have said that it's a local thing so they won't and can't write tickets. But obviously it only takes one local cop to start writing tickets so proceed at your own risk if you choose to not purchase a pass.

More info on permits 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. There is a lot of parking but the residence will put up parking cones so you don't park in their driveways and lawns. This can lead to a long walk if you arrive closer to launch. But there are plenty of viewing spots for 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

The Visitor Center is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m, and will usually open early or stay late if major launches fall outside of their usual hours. But not always be sure to check the Wallops Flight Facility visitor center page on NASA.gov or one of the visitor centers' Twitter or Facebook.

The visitor center has free admission and has some of the sounding rockets that launch from wallops on display. The VC has an indoor area to escape elements if needed

If you are parking in the grass be very careful if it has rained recently, one time got my car stuck in the mud and had to have someone help pull my car out.


Untitled photo

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

Mariner's Point (6.4 Miles)

launch pad obstructed by trees but visible right after liftoff

14mm

24mm

70mm

200mm

500mm

Wallops Visitor Center (7.4 Miles)

iPhone 0.5 Magnification

Iphone 1.0 Mgnifiaction

Iphone 2.0 Magnification

14mm

24mm

70mm

200mm

500mm

Queens Sound (7.9 Miles)

iPhone 0.5 Magnification

iPhone 1.0 Magnification 

iPhone 2.0 Magnification 

14mm

24mm

70mm

200mm

500mm

Assateague Island National Seashore (8.5 Miles)

iPhone 0.5 Magnification

iPhone 1.0 Magnification

iPhone 2.0 Magnification

14mm

500mm



Thank You!

If you made it down here I hope you found a spot to view the next wallops launch you're at. I made this viewing guide for the spaceflight community and have and will always provide it for free. But if you want to support me feel free to buy a print of one of my pics or follow me on social media through one of the buttons right below this message.

Powered by SmugMug Owner Log In