Eleven Rockets Scheduled for Launch from Poker Flat Research Range

Release Date: 
Wednesday, January 2, 2002


Eleven rockets are scheduled for launch from Poker Flat Research Range this winter, with projects ranging from four rockets launched in rapid succession to measure wind in the upper atmosphere in January to an internationally collaborative student rocket launch in March.

Scientists need clear and calm weather and appropriate auroral conditions before they launch four rockets high above Earth to measure wind in the upper atmosphere in January. All four of the rockets are scheduled to launch within six minutes of each other. Three of the rockets will release harmless chemicals to create brilliant, colorful trails that will glow as they are carried by wind blowing in the upper atmosphere. The fourth rocket will carry instruments to measure the glowing trails. The colorful trails are expected to be visible from the ground in Fairbanks, North Pole, locations north of the Brooks Range and as far east as the Canadian border.

Six additional rockets involving experiments designed to study the aurora will launch throughout the rocket season. Sounding rockets equipped with instrumentation will fly through the aurora to gather data about the atmosphere, particles and magnetic fields associated with the spectacular natural phenomenon. The rockets will require specific weather and auroral conditions before they can launch.

A student rocket involving collaboration between University of Alaska Fairbanks students and university students from Japan is scheduled to launch in March. The primary goal of this project is to provide opportunities for students to become involved with the hands-on design, construction and launch of sounding rocket payloads. The international collaboration will provide extensive experience for all students involved.

Poker Flat is located about 30 miles northeast of Fairbanks, is owned by the University of Alaska, and is operated by the Geophysical Institute under contract to NASA.

Since it was founded 34 years ago, more than 1,500 meteorological rockets and 250 major high-altitude sounding rocket experiments have been launched from Poker Flat Research Range to conduct atmospheric research on diverse subjects including the aurora, the ozone layer, solar protons and electric, magnetic and ultraviolet fields. 

For more information, contact Geophysical Institute Public Relations Specialist Vicki Daniels at (907) 474-5823 or via email at vicki@gi.alaska.edu.