Rocket to Show How the Aurora Affects Radio Signals

Release Date: 
Sunday, February 3, 2002


A single sounding rocket is scheduled to launch in January from Poker Flat Research Range when weather and aurora conditions are suitable. The rocket, a Black Brant XII, is part of an experiment designed to show how the aurora affects radio signals such as Global Positioning System (GPS) signals.

The rocket will be launched 700 km high through a bright and active aurora display, and will land in the Arctic Ocean. Once in flight, the rocket will release three payloads in a triangular configuration.

Each payload contains a GPS receiver and new types of electric field data instruments. Measurements from on-board the rocket payloads will be correlated with data collected from satellites as well as ground-based arrays of GPS receivers. In addition to furthering knowledge about Earth’s upper atmosphere, the data will be used to upgrade GPS technology for future suborbital missions.

Dr. Paul Kintner Jr., principal investigator for the rocket launch, is a professor at the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Cornell University.

Poker Flat Research Range, located about 30 miles northeast of Fairbanks, is owned by the University of Alaska and 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-latitude sounding rocket experiments have been launched from Poker Flat 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