UAFNews-L Poker Flat 2015 rocket season features five launches

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From: “University of Alaska Fairbanks” <uaf-distribution>
Date: January 12, 2015 at 19:48:24 EST
To: uafnews-l
Subject: [UAFNews-L] Poker Flat 2015 rocket season features five launches
Reply-To: newsroom

Poker Flat 2015 rocket season features five launches

CONTACT: Ned Rozell, 907-474-7468, nrozell

After years of supporting rocket launches at Poker Flat Research Range, Rich Collins will soon lead two of his own.

Collins, a longtime researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute, is leading a mission involving two of the five NASA sounding rockets slated to blast off during this year’s launch season at Poker Flat, located about 30 miles north of Fairbanks. The launch window opens Jan. 13 and runs through Jan. 27.

Collins’s rockets will carry sensors that measure turbulence in the atmosphere 50 miles above the Earth’s surface. The same evening, Miguel Larsen of Clemson University will also launch two rockets that will release a vapor to study turbulence.

The fifth rocket, which will probably not launch on the same evening, will be an unrelated aurora research experiment performed by scientists from Utah State University.

Since 1997, Collins has been shooting a green laser into the sky from a Poker Flat hilltop to gather upper atmosphere temperature profiles. His research measurements have also been useful for aurora rocket missions.

Collins’ experiments this season will feature sensitive instruments carried by 50-foot rockets to measure air density on the upward and downward portions of the rockets’ flights, which will reach their apex about 100 miles above northern Alaska. He will be measuring the lowest reaches of the zone in which the aurora interacts with the upper atmosphere. Collins designed his experiment, called the Mesosphere-Lower Thermosphere Turbulence Experiment, with Aroh Barjatya of Embry Riddle University and Gerald Lehmacher of Clemson.

Collins’ and Larsen’s rocket launches will happen within the same hour. Collins’ first rocket will blast off when there is moderate aurora and a temperature inversion in the upper atmosphere. Larsen’s first rocket will follow two minutes later. Collins’ second rocket will leave the rail 30 minutes after that. When another two minutes pass, Larsen’s second rocket, and the final of the four-rocket sequence, will blast off. Tuesday, Jan. 13, is the first possible date for the launch.

Larsen’s rockets will release a trail of trimethyl aluminum, a harmless vapor that glows green when exposed to oxygen. Digital images of the rockets’ trails will allow Larsen and his colleagues to tell whether turbulence in the atmosphere 60 miles above the Earth’s surface is two-dimensional or three-dimensional. The trails from Larsen’s rockets should endure in the sky for as long as 30 minutes.

“They can be observed from the ground over a large part of Alaska, especially in the region between Fairbanks and the Brooks Range,” Larsen said.

The Utah State team, led by Charles Swenson, will launch the Auroral Spatial Structures Probe study during this launch window. Swenson will launch his rocket following an intense display of the aurora known as a substorm.

All of the launches are part of NASA’s Sounding Rocket Program, managed by officials from NASA’s Heliospheric Division at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Located in Chatanika, Alaska, about 30 miles north of Fairbanks, Poker Flat Research Range is part of the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

ADDITIONAL CONTACTS: Rich Collins at 907-474-7607 or rlc. Diana Campbell, 907-474-5229, dlcampbell. Sue Mitchell at 907-474-5823 or semitchell.

Twitter: #MTeX15

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University of Alaska Fairbanks, 505 South Chandalar Drive, Fairbanks, AK 99775 United States

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