Watch a Rocket Launch in Glorious 360 Degrees for the First Time Ever

Image: United Launch Alliance
Image: United Launch Alliance

Watching a rocket launch is the most wholesome and exciting activity besides going on a rollercoaster or eating large quantities of cheese. Today, at around 11:11 am EDT, NASA, in coordination with United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Orbital ATK, will take things to the next level—the agency will be broadcasting the first-ever 360 degree live stream of a rocket launch.


This morning’s launch from pad 41 in Cape Canaveral, Florida is a resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft will launch on a ULA Atlas V rocket, ferrying up almost 8,000 pounds of supplies to the space station, including research materials, hardware and more. Thankfully, no one’s sending any deadly pathogens to the ISS this time!

One experiment making its way to the space station tomorrow is the Zero Boil-Off Tank (ZBOT), which will use an “experimental fluid” to investigate fluid mixing in microgravity. Its aim is to help NASA choose cost effective options with its rocket fuel, which is made of cryogenic liquids.

“Whenever you’re taking a road trip, one of your main concerns is whether you have a full tank of gas or not,” ZBOT principal investigator Dr. Mohammed Kassemi, chief scientist at NASA Glenn Research Center, told Gizmodo. “The same is true with NASA going to other planets. NASA wants to know that they have enough fuel to take [the spacecraft] to and from the location in a cost-effective way.”

NASA will additionally be sending up another iteration of the spacecraft fire experiment called Saffire-III, because who doesn’t want to know how things combust in the confinement of a metal can where no one can hear you scream?

The coolest part about watching tomorrow’s launch is definitely the 360 viewing, which means that anyone watching the live stream can use their mouse to “look” up, down, and all around at the launch. According to NASA, you can even watch it on the YouTube app. If you’ve got a VR headset handy, you’ll be able to experience the whole thing from the pad without even buying a ticket to Florida.

As always, ad astra! You can check out the live stream here or below. Rocket-related programming starts at 10 am EDT.

Space Writer, Gizmodo



OK, generic rocket launch question - what do all the changes in the exhaust stream mean? It starts out as a straight narrow flame with a blue trail behind it with bright blobs in the middle of it. Then it changes to have a lot of smoke, but that stops quickly. Then the flame flares out a lot and changes to orange with a bright spot by the nozzle. The view down towards the engine shows the exhaust becoming sooty. The second stage exhaust isn’t visible at all except for something coming out from a pipe next to the main nozzle.

Even though we’re 60 years into the space age, it’s still a thrill to see something like this rise so quickly to show the curve of the earth. It looks like a fiery ascent to heaven, even if it’s just a cargo payload.