HEX2 a success: 4-rocket aurora experiment launches from Poker Flat

Feb 15, 2007

An experiment called HEX2 that consisted of four NASA suborbital sounding rockets, launched from Poker Flat Research Range during an aurora display over northern Alaska this morning. Each rocket emitted vapor trails in an experiment to learn more about winds associated with the aurora. Researchers saw the vapor trails from Poker Flat; about 30 miles north of Fairbanks, and aurora watchers at clear locations throughout northern Alaska should have been able to see them.

John Craven, a professor of physics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Physics Department and the Geophysical Institute, was lead scientist for HEX2, in which four rockets took off from Poker Flat in a span of 16 minutes, beginning at 12:22 a.m. Alaska Standard Time. Three rockets followed a traditional arcing trajectory, reaching an altitude of approximately 125 miles. Following the first-stage burnout of the second rocket, an onboard control system turned the experiment section of the rocket to a nearly horizontal position. It flew through the aurora about 95 miles up. Each of the rockets carried an experiment that released puffs of trimethylaluminum, a harmless substance that glows when exposed to oxygen. The flights lasted for about seven minutes.

Scientists on the ground in different northern locations photographed the chemical trails. Two were in Fort Yukon, one each at Toolik Lake and Coldfoot, and two were in Old Crow, in the Yukon Territory. Their images and digital recordings will be used to determine the motion of upper atmospheric winds.

“We are excited to analyze the data,” Craven said after the launches. The aurora display and excellent launch conditions exceeded scientists’ expectations at the rocket range.

This morning’s launches brought the total to nine rockets launched during three aurora events at Poker Flat in the last few weeks. NASA plans to launch a total of 10 sounding rockets during this winter’s campaign.

The final mission involves one rocket that is now on the launch rail and will be carrying an experiment for Jim LaBelle of Dartmouth College. The launch is scheduled to go any night conditions are right.

NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia manages NASA’s Suborbital Sounding Rocket Program. UAF’s Geophysical Institute operates and maintains Poker Flat Research Range under contract to NASA. The range is located 30 miles north of Fairbanks off the Steese Highway.

Source: University of Alaska Fairbanks

Explore further: Why don't we search for different life?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Image: Sounding rockets launch into an aurora

Jan 28, 2015

The interaction of solar winds and Earth's atmosphere produces northern lights, or auroras, that dance across the night sky and mesmerize the casual observer. However, to scientists this interaction is more ...

Research team to fire rocket into Northern Lights

Jan 23, 2014

(Phys.org) —On Jan. 24, 2014, Marilia Samara will be waiting for the perfect aurora. Samara and her science team will be at the Poker Flat Research Range in Poker Flat, Alaska, looking for classic curls ...

Scientists launch rocket into aurora

Feb 20, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- With the full sky shimmering in green aurora, Saturday night (Feb. 18, 2012) a team of scientists, including space physicist Marc Lessard and graduate students from the University of New Hampshire's ...

6 aurora-research rockets to launch from Poker Flat

Feb 09, 2007

Scientists from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the University of New Hampshire have experiments ready on the launch rails at Poker Flat Research Range north of Fairbanks, and another scientist is waiting in New Hampshire ...

Recommended for you

Why don't we search for different life?

6 hours ago

If we really want to find life on other worlds, why do we keep looking for life based on carbon and water? Why don't we look for the stuff that's really different?

OSIRIS catches glimpse of Rosetta's shadow

6 hours ago

Several days after Rosetta's close flyby of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 14 February 2015, images taken on this day by OSIRIS, the scientific imaging system on board, have now been downlinked to Earth. ...

Kamikaze comet loses its head

7 hours ago

Like coins, most comet have both heads and tails. Occasionally, during a close passage of the Sun, a comet's head will be greatly diminished yet still retain a classic cometary outline. Rarely are we left ...

NASA spacecraft nears historic dwarf planet arrival

Mar 02, 2015

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has returned new images captured on approach to its historic orbit insertion at the dwarf planet Ceres. Dawn will be the first mission to successfully visit a dwarf planet when it enters ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.