LADEE, the Lunar Atmosphere Dust Environment Explorer, is a car-sized robotic orbiter that will orbit Earth before flying on to the moon, where it will collect atmospheric data.
The unmanned lunar orbiter will be launched on a five-stage Minotaur V rocket, better known as a Peacekeeper missile. Orbital Sciences Corp. gave the Cold War-era intercontinental ballistic missile a civilian redesign, and it will be the first to launch beyond Earth.
LADEE will also be the first lunar mission to launch from the northeast coast of North America, from Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia.
NASA and Orbital have created visibility maps for states along the East Coast. Facing south-southeast with a good view of the horizon at launch time, many in the U.S will be able to see LADEE drop its first three stages over the Atlantic Ocean.
With clear skies, the rocket will be visible in North Carolina, Richmond, Va., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Hartford, Conn., and Boston.
Further away in West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Binghamton, N.Y., Syracuse, N.Y., Montpelier, Vt., Bangor, Maine and Presque Isle, Maine, the launch may still be visible very close to the horizon.
For those who can't watch live, the LADEE launch will be streaming launch coverage and commentary on NASA TV beginning at 9:30 p.m. ET.