Tired of losing telescopes at sea, NASA testing new recovery system at Wallops
A new mechanism being tested on a Wallops Flight Facility sounding rocket Tuesday could give NASA broader abilities to scan the skies.
The Black Brant IX sounding rocket, which is scheduled to launch between 5:45 and 6:40 a.m., is set to ferry two dozen experiments and previously untested technologies briefly into space, NASA said.
“Sounding rockets are not only used for conducting science missions but also provide an excellent platform for technology development," said Cathy Hesh, technology manager for the sounding rocket program office at Wallops. "While the flight is short in duration, enough flight time is provided to test the new technologies.”
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One of those technologies is a shutter door system designed to allow recovery of a telescope payload in open water.
Such flights currently must be conducted where land recovery is possible, such as at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. If water landings were available, rockets could launch from the Kwajalein Atoll in the South Pacific, enabling telescope observations from the Southern Hemisphere, scientists say.
The Wallops flight also is testing updated electrical and mechanical systems involved in the current recovery system, a solar sensor, a low-cost star tracker and an inertial measurement unit, among other devices.
The flight is scheduled to last about 17 minutes. It will descend by parachute and splash down in the Atlantic about 106 miles from the Eastern Shore facility, according to NASA.
The 56-foot rocket is expected to be visible around the Delmarva Peninsula.