Seven rockets scheduled for launch from Poker Flat Research Range

Release Date: 
Wednesday, January 8, 2003

Seven rockets carrying experiments used to study the aurora are scheduled for launch from Poker Flat Research Range this winter. The projects include a group of four rockets launched in rapid succession to measure wind in the upper atmosphere and one rocket that will turn on its side mid-flight, allowing it to pierce a curtain of aurora horizontally.

The first launch window of the season is scheduled for January 22 through February 8. During that time, the High Bandwidth Auroral Rocket (HIBAR) mission will wait for ideal conditions to launch a single, two-stage Black Brant IX sounding rocket to measure highfrequency wave signals in the aurora. The mission is designed to test a theory that resulted from previous data-gathering efforts at Poker Flat in 1997 and 2002.

Between February 18 and March 8, scientists in the JOULE mission will need clear, calm weather and appropriate auroral conditions to launch four rockets high above Earth to measure wind in the upper atmosphere. All four rockets are scheduled to launch within six minutes of each other. Two of the rockets will carry instruments, and the third and fourth rocket will release harmless chemicals to create brilliant, colorful trails that will glow as they are carried by wind blowing in the upper atmosphere. The colorful trails are expected to be visible from the ground as far south as Anchorage, and as far north as Arctic Village and Kaktovik.

During the same period, UAF Geophysical Institute Assistant Professor Mark Conde will attempt to turn rocket science on its side with a dual-rocket experiment. Conde is the principal investigator of the first institute-led rocket launch at Poker Flat since 1995. His HEX mission will differ from other Poker Flat launches because the primary rocket in the experiment will tip on its side in mid-flight, allowing it to pierce a curtain of aurora horizontally. Much like the rockets in the JOULE mission, each rocket in Conde’s mission will release a harmless chemical trail that will be recorded by camera sites at Arctic Village and Toolik Lake in Alaska, and at Old Crow in the Yukon Territory.

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

Vicki Daniels, Public Relations Specialist, UAF Geophysical Institute:
(907) 474-5823 or via email at