All NEWLY updated information is in GREEN TEXT below.
Information still to be determined is in RED TEXT below.
Dates and times that are subject to change at NASA’s discretion are in PURPLE TEXT below.
Last update of this page: September 17, 2013, 9:40 am ET
The Launch Plans are based on the Currently Scheduled Orbital Sciences D-1 Antares/Cygnus Liftoff: Wednesday, September 18, 2013, 10:50 am, EDT
(see NASA Consolidated Launch Schedule)
For the Launch Plan detailed below we have currently 30 attending from 3 communities, representing 4 experiment teams: San Marino, CA (2 experiment teams); Howard County, MD; and Russell County, VA.
The SSEP Falcon I payload of 7 flight experiments will be aboard the Orbital Sciences D-1 vehicle, launching out of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS). MARS is a commercial spaceport adjacent to the Wallops Flight Facility, on Wallops Island, VA, operated by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. This page provides launch and travel information for SSEP delegations traveling to the launch.
SSEP students, teachers, administrators, and family members are invited to view the launch from the marshy shoreline behind the Visitor’s Center at Wallops Flight Facility. (see Section C3 below for details).
B. Basic Travel Information
1. Airline and Airport
Airports: Where should folks fly in?
Norfolk, Newport News, Baltimore Washington International
NOTE: all are 2 hours driving distance from MARS
Salisbury-Ocean City Wicomico Regional Airport
NOTE: still 1 hour drive from MARS
However, we strongly advise you to use Southwest, which only flies into Norfolk and Baltimore Washington International. Here is why—
Everyone traveling to Virginia needs to be aware that you’re planning a trip—with significant expense—to see a historic event that may not happen on the date it is scheduled. You may book travel and then find a day later that the launch is postponed. Or … everything is going just fine, you get to Virginia and then you find the launch is delayed (“scrubbed”) to a date after your scheduled departure, and you’d like to stay a few more days in the hope of seeing the launch. The main problem is airfare. For most carriers, if you book at their cheap, non-refundable rate, and you need to make a change, you’ll pay a significant change fee per ticket (typically $150) AND you’ll need to pay the difference between the fare you already paid and the new fare. The new fare could be $1,000 or more higher than your original purchase price given most carriers dramatically increase the cost of a ticket as you get closer to the travel date. With the change fee, you might be looking at a $1,200 per ticket added cost—on top of the original price you paid! But that is not the case with Southwest—
If you book on line, Southwest offers Wanna Get Away non-refundable fares which are very reasonable. If you need to change your flight, there is no change fee, and you can try to get another cheap Wanna Get Away far if they are still available. If not, you can get their refundable Anytime fare, which is still reasonable and likely the highest price fare you’d need to get. The Anytime fare for the same flight does not change as you get closer to the travel date. For a flight change you pay the price difference between the fares. That means you know right now what the likely worst potential added cost of a change would be. Also, the Anytime fare is refundable. So if you end up making a flight change from a Wanna Get Away to an Anytime ticket, but then end up not going to Virginia (say the launch is delayed yet again to a date you cannot attend), you can get reimbursed for the difference between the Wanna Get Away fare and the Anytime fare.
You cannot beat Soutwest’s fare structure if you need to build into your thinking that the launch can slip—and you DO need to build that into your thinking.
2. NASA Wallops Flight Facility Visitor’s Center
The Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) Visitor’s Center is open seven days a week from 10:00 am-4:00 pm. Admission is free. From their website:
“The NASA Wallops Visitor Center is the place to explore the past, present, and future of NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. Featuring exhibits about the history of Wallops, the science behind aeronautics, the programs carried out at Wallops, and current/upcoming Wallops missions, the Visitor Center is fun and educational for all ages – you don’t have to be a space enthusiast to have a good time! We offer group programs and weekly activities that are available to the public and we coordinate activities with astronomical events. Not to mention, the Visitor Center is the perfect viewing site for rocket launches from Wallops Island. Our exhibits are constantly being updated. Be sure to check out the newly renovated auditorium complete with a nine-television high-definition display and the rooftop viewing area available to the public. Located inside the Visitor Center, the Gift Shop offers models, patches, games, clothing and a variety of NASA souvenirs. There’s something here for everyone! Plan a visit to NASA as part of your next trip to the Eastern Shore. Admission is free – stop by today!”
We have identified a number of hotels in the area. When booking a hotel, make sure to find out what happens to your commitment of payment if the launch date slips before you arrive in Virginia.
#1: Comfort Suites
4195 Main Street
Chincoteague, VA 23336
#2: Hampton Inn and Suites
4179 Main Street
Chincoteague, VA 23336
#3 Best Western
7105 Maddox Blvd
Chincoteague Island, VA 23336
C. The SSEP Launch Plan for Orb D-1
1. Key Thinking for Planning
Fly in as late as possible the day before the launch so that if the launch is delayed by just one or two days, there is still an opportunity to see the launch if folks can schedule to be in Virginia for a few days. However, DO NOT fly in on the day of the launch as there is no ability for you to fly in on the same day and get to the Visitor’s Center at Wallops Flight Facility on time.
[Tuesday, September 17] Launch minus 1 Day
SSEP community attendees fly in
No-Host Dinner Site: we have identified three locations for a no-host dinner site, where anyone interested in having dinner with other SSEP attendees can meet. It’s a good way for folks to get-together informally.
All three locations are on Chincoteague Island. The contact information for the three restaurants is below.
We suspect that the restaurants will not be able to reserve an area in their establishment for SSEP since we don’t know in advance how many folks will show up. We will be speaking to or have spoken with either the owner or manager at all three restaurants to see if the following plan will work: call the restaurant 2 to 3 hours in advance, tell them you are with the “Student Spaceflight Experiments Program” and ask if they can reserve a table for you. Once you get to the restaurant, tell the host or hostess you are with SSEP and ask if they can point out other SSEP folks that are already seated. Your table may or may not be located next to theirs, but you can certainly walk over and say hi, ask what part of the nation they are from, and socialize—maybe even get-together for ice cream after your meal and walk around 😀 Here are the three restaurants:
4040 Main Street
Chincoteague, VA 23336
(reservations strongly suggested, lot’s of reservations from folks in town for the launch, if you reference SSEP when making the reservation they will be happy to point you to other SSEP guests dining at the same time)
AJ’s on the Creek
6585 Maddox Blvd, State Route 2113
Chincoteague Island, VA 23336
6576 Maddox Blvd
Chincoteague, VA 23336
(spoke with John, reservations strongly suggested, lot’s of reservations from folks in town for the launch, spoke with John, if you reference SSEP when making your reservations, he is happy to point you to other SSEP guests dining at the same time)
Lighter Fare: Sea Star Cafe, Woody’s Beach BBQ
[Wednesday, September 18] Launch Day
8:30 am SSEP delegations arrive at the Visitor’s Center at Wallops Flight Facility (see Section 3 below)
10:50 am currently scheduled Orb D-1 Launch
[Thursday, September 19] Optional Day: Launch + 1 Day
WFF Visitor Center/Chincoteague Island Tourist Day: all attendees are invited to, on their own, visit the Wallops Flight Facility Visitor Center or explore other opportunities available in the beautiful Chincoteague Island area.
There is a launch window on Thursday if the launch is scrubbed on Wednesday, but we do not have specifics on the timing of that window.
[Friday, September 20] Fly home
3. Viewing the Launch – Visitor’s Center NASA Wallops Flight Facility
All attendees are to arrive at the WFF Visitor’s Center at 8:30 am. We are urging everyone to arrive this early because we do not know if the historic nature of this launch is going to cause significant traffic backups. We truly believe it’s a case of better safe than sorry. This arrival time was worked out in concert with MARS public affairs.
All SSEP attendees are invited by NASA to view the launch from the marshy shoreline behind the NASA Wallops Visitor’s Center. The Visitor’s Center is known to be a prime viewing location for rocket launches. It is approximately 6 miles from the launchpad and should afford a view of the Antares rocket on the launchpad.
Getting to WFFVC: The Visitor Center (757-824-2298/1344) is located on Route 175, six miles east of US-13 and five miles west of Chincoteague Island. It is a 60-minute drive south from Salisbury and Ocean City, MD and a 90-minute drive north from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.
From the Virginia Beach / Norfolk area:
Cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and drive approximately 90 miles north on US-13. At the T’s-Corner stoplight turn right (east) on VA Rt. 175. Continue on Rt. 175 for approximately 6 miles. The Visitor Center will be on your right (south) across from the main base. Landmarks include a road sign for the Visitor Center and large rocket exhibits on the grounds. Turn right into the parking lot.
From the Dover / Wilmington / Philadelphia area:
Drive south to Salisbury, MD. Take the bypass around Salisbury and continue south on US-13 for approximately 45 miles. A few miles after crossing into Virginia, turn left (east) on VA Rt. 175 at the T’s corner stoplight. Continue on Rt. 175 for approximately 6 miles. The Visitor Center will be on your right (south) across from the main base. Landmarks include a road sign for the Visitor Center and large rocket exhibits on the grounds. Turn right into the parking lot.
From the Washington DC / Baltimore / Annapolis area:
Drive east and then south on US-50 E across the Bay Bridge to Salisbury, MD. Take the US-50 E bypass around Salisbury. The bypass will merge with US-13 S. Drive south on US-13 for approximately 45 miles. A few miles after crossing into Virginia, turn left (east) on VA Rt. 175 at the T’s corner stoplight. Continue on Rt. 175 for approximately 6 miles. The Visitor Center will be on your right (south) across from the main base. Landmarks include a road sign for the Visitor Center and large rocket exhibits on the grounds. Turn right into the parking lot.
From Ocean City, MD:
Drive west on US-50 W and then turn left (south) on US-113 S around Berlin, MD to Pocomoke City, MD. Turn left (south) on US-13 S and drive south for approximately 12 miles. A few miles after crossing into Virginia, turn left (east) on VA Rt. 175 at the T’s corner stoplight. Continue on Rt. 175 for approximately 6 miles. The Visitor Center will be on your right (south) across from the main base. Landmarks include a road sign for the Visitor Center and large rocket exhibits on the grounds. Turn right into the parking lot.
Who should I contact should I have questions once I arrive in Chincoteague for the launch?
Stacy Hamel, NCESSE’s Flight Operations Manager for SSEP will be your point of contact for the launch. She can be reached at 434-465-8449 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are unable to reach her at 434-465-8449, you can try to reach her on her personal cell, 434-882-5176. You can also try Dr. Jeff Goldstein on his cell: 301-395-0770. Both Stacy and Jeff will be attending the launch.
Should/could folks bring lawn chairs/mats etc to sit on?
Yes, you will be viewing the launch from the marshy shoreline, so you are encouraged to bring chairs.
Do attendees need to stay on the shore or can they tour the Visitor’s Center?
Attendees are encouraged to set-up their viewing spot on the shore and then go tour the Visitor’s Center before the launch. Just make sure you return to the shore in plenty of time!
How far is WFFVC from the Orb D-1 launchpad?
It is about 6 miles away.
From WFFVC, can you see Orb D-1 on the pad, or only when it blasts off?
We believe you should be able to see it on the pad, but since it is 6 miles away, bring binoculars!
Where should we park?
SSEP attendees are welcome to park in the WFFVC parking lot.
Any other useful advice?
YES! Wallops Island is known for their exceptional mosquitoes! Bring bug repellant, and while you are at it, sun screen as well.