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23.01.2017

2017 Rocket Campaign Begins in Alaska
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A NASA sounding rocket campaign during January through March 2017, at the Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska will support the effort to better understand the space that surrounds Earth - key situational awareness needed as humans seek to explore beyond our home planet.

Three missions, including five separate launches, explore the Earth's magnetic environment and its impact on Earth's upper atmosphere and ionosphere. Each of the three missions expands our understanding of near-Earth space, including new information about the composition of the atmosphere, as well as processes behind how the sun, solar winds, and Earth's magnetosphere affect auroras. Such research helps create a robust, detailed understanding of the dynamic low Earth orbit environment in which our spacecraft and astronauts travel.

The 2017 Alaska sounding rocket campaign begins in late January with the launch of a mission called Polar Night Nitric Oxide or PolarNOx to study Earth's atmosphere in the polar region.

Scott Bailey, the principal investigator of the mission from Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, said, "The aurora creates nitric oxide, but in the polar night there is no significant process for destroying the nitric oxide. We believe it builds up to large concentrations. The purpose of our rocket is to measure the abundance and altitude of peak abundance for the nitric oxide."

"Nitric oxide under appropriate conditions can be transported to the stratosphere where it will catalytically destroy ozone," Bailey said. Those changes in ozone can lead to changes in stratospheric temperature and wind and may even impact the circulation at Earth's surface.

The primary instrument of PolarNOx is a UV spectrograph. As the payload ascends to its approximately 173 mile apogee and begins its descent back to Earth the spectrograph is pointed at a star on the horizon. "Attenuation of the starlight by nitric oxide is used to obtain a nitric oxide altitude profile," said Bailey.

The instrument will fly on a 57-foot long Black Brant IX sounding rocket with a launch window that runs from Jan. 19 through Jan. 31. The launch time is 8:30 am EST. The launch window each day is 60 minutes long.

No auroral activity or low auroral conditions are preferred for conducting the mission. Light emitted by an aurora will interfere with the spectograph's ability to view the target star.

PolarNOX will be followed with the launch of two additional missions that will study the interaction of the solar wind, the magnetosphere, Earth's upper atmosphere and the structure of the resulting aurora. The magnetosphere is the region of Earth's magnetic field where solar energy is stored and processed. The release of this energy drives aurora.

The launch window for both missions is Feb. 13 through March 3 and each will be conducted during auroral activity.

Rob Pfaff, scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the principal investigator for the second mission, called Neutral Jets in Auroral Arcs, said, "Electric fields drive the ionosphere which, in turn, are predicted to set up enhanced neutral winds within an aurora arc. This experiment will seek to understand the height-dependent coupling processes that create localized neutral 'jets' within the aurora and their associated heating and neutral structuring."

For this mission, two 56-foot long Black Brant IX rockets will be launched nearly simultaneously. One rocket is expected to fly to an apogee of about 107 miles while the other is targeted for 201 miles apogee.

Flying the two similar payloads simultaneously to different altitudes will provide researchers a vertical profile of the measurements within an aurora.

The launches will occur between 11 pm and 4 am EST and are dependent on auroral activity.

The third mission, called Ionospheric Structuring: In Situ and Groundbased Low Altitude StudieS or ISINGLASS, will include the launch of two rockets with identical payloads that will fly to approximately 218 miles altitude into two different types of auroras - an inverted-V arc and a dynamic Alfenic curtain. Thus, they may not be launched on the same night.

Kristina Lynch, ISINGLASS principal investigator from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, said, "The visible light produced in the atmosphere as aurora is the last step of a chain of processes connecting the solar wind to the atmosphere. We are seeking to understand what structure in these visible signatures can tell us about the electrodynamics of processes higher up."

As with the rockets launched to study auroral jets, ISINGLASS will use ground based instruments together with those on the rocket payload. The payload will include the deployment of a sub-payload and also several instrumented deployable canisters. The use of these various miniature subsystems and the main payload will give researchers a multipoint view of spatial structures within the aurora.

The ISINGLASS launches will occur between 1 and 7 a.m. EST.

Together the five launches will add to our body of information about this space through which our spacecraft and astronauts travel near Earth. By studying the interaction of the sun and its solar wind with Earth's upper atmosphere, scientists are also able to apply the knowledge to other planetary bodies - helping us understand these interactions throughout the universe as well.

Quelle: SD

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Update: 27.01.2017

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NASA Sounding Rocket Successfully Launches into Alaskan Night 

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Credits: NASA/Jamie Adkins

An experiment to measure nitric oxide in the polar sky was successfully launched on a NASA sounding rocket at 8:45 a.m. EST, Jan. 27, 2017, from the Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska.

The Polar Night Nitric Oxide experiment or PolarNOx was launched on a Black Brant IX sounding rocket to an altitude of nearly 176 miles.  Preliminary information shows that good data was collected.

Phil Eberspeaker, Chief of the NASA Sounding Rocket Program Office, said, “The sounding rocket, science and range team worked through previous payload and ground system issues to launch this payload, not to mention the extremely cold weather (as low as -50 degrees).  The team did a great job to conduct a successful launch.”

Scott Bailey, the principal investigator for PolarNOx from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, said, “The rocket team did a great job of pointing us at the star and our spectrograph saw it clearly throughout the flight. We got plenty of data to work through.”

Bailey said, “The aurora creates nitric oxide, but in the polar night there is no significant process for destroying the nitric oxide.  We believe it builds up to large concentrations.  The purpose of our rocket is to measure the abundance and altitude of peak abundance for the nitric oxide.”

“Nitric oxide under appropriate conditions can be transported to the stratosphere where it will catalytically destroy ozone,” Bailey said. Those changes in ozone can lead to changes in stratospheric temperature and wind and may even impact the circulation at Earth’s surface.

PolarNox was the first of five rockets scheduled for launch between January and March from the Poker Flat Research Range operated by the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

PolarNOX will be followed with the launch of two additional missions that will study the interaction of the solar wind, the magnetosphere, Earth’s upper atmosphere and the structure of the resulting aurora. The magnetosphere is the region of Earth’s magnetic field where solar energy is stored and processed. The release of this energy drives aurora. 

The launch window for both missions, which include 2 sounding rockets each, is Feb. 13 through March 3.

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The Polar Night Nitric Oxide or PolarNOx experiment from Virginia Tech is launched aboard a NASA Black Brant IX sounding rocket at 8:45 a.m. EST, Jan. 27, from the Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska. PolarNOx is measuring nitric oxide in the polar night sky. Nitric oxide in the polar night sky is created by auroras. Under appropriate conditions it can be transported to the stratosphere where it may destroy ozone resulting in possible changes in stratospheric temperature and wind and may even impact the circulation at Earth’s surface.
Credits: NASA/Jamie Adkins

The five launches from Alaska are supported through NASA's Sounding Rocket Program at the agency's Wallops Flight Facility at Wallops Island, Virginia, which is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. NASA's Heliophysics Division manages the sounding-rocket program for the agency.

Quelle: NASA

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Update: 23.02.2017

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One Down, 3 to Go … Sounding Rocket Flies in Alaska to Study Auroras 

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A NASA Black Brant IX sounding rocket soars skyward into an aurora over Alaska following a 5:13 a.m. EST, Feb. 22, launch from the Poker Flat Research Range. The rocket carried an Ionospheric Structuring: In Situ and Groundbased Low Altitude StudieS instrumented payload examining the structure of an aurora.
Credits: NASA/Terry Zaperach

The first of four sounding rockets scheduled for launch from the Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska to examine the structure of auroras was launched at 5:14 a.m. EST, Feb. 22, 2017.

The Black Brant IX sounding rocket carried instruments to an altitude of 225 miles as part of the Ionospheric Structuring: In Situ and Groundbased Low Altitude StudieS or ISINGLASS mission.

 

ISINGLASS, includes the launch of two rockets with identical payloads that will fly into two different types of auroras – an inverted-V arc and a dynamic Alfenic curtain. The launch window for the second rocket runs through March 3.

 

Phil Eberspeaker, chief of the Sounding Rocket Program office, said, “It was good to successfully launch the first of the two rockets for the ISINGLASS mission. Now our attention turns towards launching the remaining ISINGLASS rocket and the two rockets for the Neutral Jets in Auroral Arcs mission.”

 

The mission team is reviewing the data that was received during the flight.

 

Kristina Lynch, ISINGLASS principal investigator from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, said, “The visible light produced in the atmosphere as aurora is the last step of a chain of processes connecting the solar wind to the atmosphere. We are seeking to understand what structure in these visible signatures can tell us about the electrodynamics of processes higher up.”

The ISINGLASS payload includes the deployment of a sub-payload and also several instrumented deployable canisters. The use of these various miniature subsystems and the main payload will give researchers a multipoint view of spatial structures within the aurora.

In addition to the remaining ISINGLASS rocket, two additional rockets supporting the Neutral Jets in Auroral Arcs mission await launch prior to March 3.

Rob Pfaff, scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the principal investigator for the Auroral Arcs mission, said, “Electric fields drive the ionosphere which in turn are predicted to set up enhanced neutral winds within an aurora arc. This experiment will seek to understand the height-dependent coupling processes that create localized neutral 'jets’ within the aurora and their associated heating and neutral structuring.”

For this mission, two 56-foot long Black Brant IX rockets will be launched nearly-simultaneously. One rocket is expected to fly to an apogee of about 107 miles while the other is targeted for 201 miles apogee. As with ISINGLASS, the mission uses ground based instruments together with those on the rocket payload. 

Flying the two similar payloads simultaneously to different altitudes will provide researchers a vertical profile of the measurements within an aurora.

The launches from Alaska are supported through NASA's Sounding Rocket Program at the agency's Wallops Flight Facility at Wallops Island, Virginia, which is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Orbital ATK provides mission planning, engineering services and field operations through the NASA Sounding Rocket Operations Contract. NASA's Heliophysics Division manages the sounding-rocket program for the agency.

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Sounding Rocket Launches to Study Auroras

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A NASA Black Brant IX sounding rocket soars skyward into an aurora over Alaska following a 5:13 a.m. EST, Feb. 22, 2017 launch from the Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska. The rocket carried an Ionospheric Structuring: In Situ and Groundbased Low Altitude StudieS (ISINGLASS) instrumented payload examining the structure of an aurora. ISINGLASS includes the launch of two rockets with identical payloads that will fly into two different types of auroras – an inverted-V arc and a dynamic Alfenic curtain. The launch window for the second rocket runs through March 3.

Kristina Lynch, ISINGLASS principal investigator from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, said, “The visible light produced in the atmosphere as aurora is the last step of a chain of processes connecting the solar wind to the atmosphere. We are seeking to understand what structure in these visible signatures can tell us about the electrodynamics of processes higher up.”

Together, the five launches in this early 2017 sounding rocket campaign will add to our body of information about this space through which our spacecraft and astronauts travel near Earth. By studying the interaction of the sun and its solar wind with Earth’s upper atmosphere, scientists are also able to apply the knowledge to other planetary bodies -- helping us understand these interactions throughout the universe as well.

Quelle: NASA

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Update: 3.03.2017

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Three Rockets Launched within Hours Explore Auroras over Alaska

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The final NASA sounding rocket of three on March 2 is launched into an aurora over Alaska.
Credits: NASA/Chris Perry

Three NASA rockets carrying instruments into active auroras over Alaska to aid scientists studying the northern lights and the interactions of the solar wind with Earth’s upper atmosphere and ionosphere were launched within a nearly two-hour period March 2, 2017.

The instruments were successfully carried on Black IX sounding rockets from the Poker Flat Research Range north of Fairbanks. The first two rockets were launched nearly simultaneously at 12:41 a.m. and 12:42:30 a.m. EST as part of the Neutral Jets in Auroral Arcs mission.  The third rocket launched at 2:50 a.m. EST was part of the Ionospheric Structuring: In Situ and Groundbased Low Altitude StudieS or ISINGLASS mission.

Preliminary reports indicate that data was received from instruments aboard all three rockets.

Phil Eberspeaker, chief of the Sounding Rocket Program Office, said, “The ability to successfully launch these three rockets is a testament to the capabilities of the range, science and sounding rocket teams.  Great coordination is required to institute the complex countdown required to prepare and launch three rockets in a short period.  The team did a fantastic job executing these launches.”

Neutral Jet scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, explain that electric fields drive the ionosphere, which, in turn, are predicted to set up enhanced neutral winds within an aurora arc. This experiment seeks to understand the height-dependent processes that create localized neutral jets within the aurora.

Flying the two similar payloads simultaneously to different altitudes provided researchers unprecedented vertical measurements within an aurora. The first rocket flew to an altitude of 205 miles of above the Earth and the second flew to 118 miles.

The third rocket, flown to 227 miles altitude, was preceded by another ISINGLASS launch on Feb. 22. As with the first rocket, the payload included the deployment of a sub-payload and also several instrumented deployable canisters.  The use of these various miniature subsystems and the main payload will give researchers a multipoint view of spatial structures within the aurora.

Kristina Lynch, ISINGLASS principal investigator from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, said, “The visible light produced in the atmosphere as aurora is the last step of a chain of processes connecting the solar wind to the atmosphere.   We are seeking to understand what structure in these visible signatures can tell us about the electrodynamics of processes higher up.”

 

 

The three rockets launched were part of five launched in January through March from the Poker Flat Research Range, operated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks, to study auroras. The Polar Night Nitric Oxide mission, from Va. Tech in Blacksburg, flew successfully on January 27.

The five launches from Alaska are supported through NASA's Sounding Rocket Program at the agency's Wallops Flight Facility at Wallops Island, Virginia, which is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Orbital ATK provides mission planning, engineering services and field operations for the NASA Sounding Rocket Operations Contract. NASA's Heliophysics Divisionmanages the sounding-rocket program for the agency.

Header image caption: Two NASA sounding rockets are launched 90-seconds apart into an active aurora from the Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska. Credit: NASA/Terry Zaperach

Quelle: NASA

 

 

 

 

 
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