One Rocket Launched, Three More to Go

Release Date: 
Thursday, March 7, 2002


The first of a four-part rocket experiment successfully launched from Poker Flat Research Range at 1:07 a.m. Thursday morning.  The remaining three rockets included in the experiment are scheduled to launch when the weather and aurora conditions are optimal between now and March 23.  

The relatively small Orion rockets will capture information on the characteristics of meteoric dust in the area of Earth’s atmosphere called the mesosphere.  Each of the four rockets will be blasted into a different type of mesospheric condition, allowing for multiple measurements of the structure of mesospheric dust layers.  

Each rocket payload contains an instrument called a dust detector, which is used to measure small, nanometer-sized particles.  The rockets will be launched 60 miles in the air and will land in
the Brooks Range

Principal Investigator Kristina Lynch of the Institute for the Study of Earth Oceans and Space at the University of New Hampshire in Durham is leading a team of scientists from several institutions, including Dr. Richard Collins of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Dr. Collins and his students are monitoring mesospheric conditions with ground-based instruments at the Geophysical Institute’s Lidar Observatory.  The lidar is an instrument similar in principle to radar, but uses a laser instead of radio waves.  Laser light aimed into the sky is scattered back by fine particles, atoms, and molecules at various heights.  The information gathered by the lidar helps Dr. Lynch determine when the atmospheric conditions are right to launch.

The study of mesospheric dust populations is a relatively new field.  According to Dr. Lynch, very little is known about the evolution, dynamics, or morphology of these dust layers.  One reason these particles have remained unmeasured for so long is that dust in the mesosphere is very difficult to observe.  Most knowledge on the subject has been generated from ground-based remote sensing, and from a recent Norwegian rocket campaign.

New developments in rocket technology will allow Dr. Lynch to obtain measurements of these fine dust particles, which will assist in the understanding of chemistry and physics in the mesosphere. 

Poker Flat Research Range is owned by the University of Alaska and operated by the Geophysical Institute under contract to NASA.
For more information, contact Geophysical Institute Public Relations Specialist Vicki Daniels at (907) 474-5823 or Principal Investigator Kristina Lynch at Poker
Flat Research Range (907) 455-2110 (note: since her launch window is active, Dr. Lynch will be at the range during evening and nighttime hours only).