Launch Viewing Plans for Orb-1, Winter 2013

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: January 7, 2014, 10:07 am ET


The Launch Plans are based on the Currently Scheduled Orbital Sciences 1 (Orb-1) Antares/Cygnus Liftoff:
, January 8, 2014, 1:32 pm, ET
see NASA Launch Schedule

Who should I contact should I have questions once I arrive at Wallops Island for the launch?
Dr. Jeff Goldstein, NCESSE Center Director ,will be your point of contact for the launch.  He can be reached at 301-395-0770 (cell) or

A. Overview

We have 77 SSEP students, teachers, administrators, and family members attending the launch of Orb-1, representing 7 SSEP communities: Teachers in Space (distributed U.S. National community); Washington, DC; Traverse City, MI; Downingtown, PA; Jamestown, PA; North Charleston, SC; and Hays County, TX. There will be 17 SSEP student researchers in attendance representing 6 flight experiment teams.

The SSEP Mission 4 Orion payload of 11 experiments, and SSEP Mission 3b Falcon II payload of 12 flight experiments, will be aboard the Orbital Sciences 1 (Orb-1) vehicle launching from Pad O-A, 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 attendees will be viewing the launch from Wright’s Seafood Restaurant, which is 5.2 miles from Launch Pad O-A. By comparison, the Wallops Flight Facility Visitor’s Center, which is the primary public viewing site for launches, is located 7.5 miles from the Pad (see Map).

SSEP attendees are invited to sit in on NASA and Orbital Sciences formal briefings to the media at the Visitor Center on the day before launch. On launch day, prior to launch, NASA has also requested that SSEP provide a 1-hour briefing to the media, with SSEP student researchers providing an overview of their flight experiments (see Section D2 below for schedule details).

The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education, will be hosting a lunch buffet for attendees just prior to launch at Wright’s Seafood restaurant. The cost of the event is being underwritten by a gift from Dr. Jeff Bennett at Big Kid Science. Dr. Bennett is an astrophysicist and award-winning children’s book author. His newest book Max Goes to the Space Station highlights the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program. The book was created in partnership with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), a National Partner on SSEP. A grant from CASIS provided partial support for 17 of the 23 communities with experiments flying on Orb-1. Copies of Max Goes to the Space Station will be provided to students in attendance for the launch.


B. NASA Wallops Flight Facility Visitor Center

The Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) Visitor Center is the site for all media briefings associated with the launch, and offers a public viewing site for launches from MARS. It is 7.5 miles from Launch Pad O-A, the pad used for Orbital launches. The Visitor 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!”

The Visitor Center 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. Visit the driving directions webpage.


C. 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 an 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 online, 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 fare 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. Hotels

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

3. Restaurants

Identified below are four restaurant locations. SSEP attendees will be watching the launch from Wright’s Seafood Restaurant, which is 5.2 miles from the Pad. The three other restaurants are on Chincoteague Island.

Wright’s Seafood Restaurant
34267 State Route 766, Wallops Island, VA 23337
(757) 824-4012

Bill’s Seafood
4040 Main Street
Chincoteague, VA  23336

AJ’s on the Creek
6585 Maddox Blvd, State Route 2113
Chincoteague Island, VA 23336

The Village
6576 Maddox Blvd
Chincoteague, VA  23336

Lighter Fare:  Sea Star CafeWoody’s Beach BBQ


D. The SSEP Launch Plan for Orb-1

1. Key Thinking for Planning

Fly in the day before the scheduled launch and be as flexible as possible so that after you arrival if the launch is delayed by just one or two days, there is still an opportunity to see the launch if folks can stay in Virginia for a few days. However, we recommend you DO NOT fly in on the day of the launch given any delays along your travel route may cause you to miss the launch.

2. Schedule

[Tuesday, January 7] Launch Minus 1 Day

SSEP community attendees arrive

Media Briefings at Visitor Center
2:00 pm: Science Briefing
3:00 pm: Pre-Launch Briefing

SSEP Posters in Visitor Center 

[Wednesday, January 8] Launch Day 

9:00 am: all Stundet Researchers to report to Visitor Center

9:30 – 11:00 am: SSEP Media Briefing

SSEP Posters in Visitor Center 

11:30 am: SSEP attendees arrive at Wright’s Seafood Restaurant

1:32 pm: currently scheduled Orb-1 Launch (launch widow of opportunity is 5 minutes long)

[Thursday, January 9]  Optional Day: Launch + 1 Day

NOTE: if launch is moved to January 9, launch is at 1:10 pm ET, and the SSEP viewing site is the Visitor Center



The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) is a program of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in the U.S., and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education internationally. It is enabled through a strategic partnership with DreamUp PBC and NanoRacks LLC, which are working with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory. SSEP is the first pre-college STEM education program that is both a U.S. national initiative and implemented as an on-orbit commercial space venture.