Poker Flat's launch season revised

Release Date: 
Thursday, January 24, 2002


The total number of rockets launching from Poker Flat Research Range this season has recently been revised from thirteen to eleven. The reduction is due to the cancellation of a guided rocket project previously scheduled for April that will no longer launch from Poker Flat.

The two rockets in conjunction with the cancelled project were going to be used as part of a United States Missile Defense Agency (MDA)-lead federal experiment designed to study rocket dispersion patterns.

Recently, the mission was moved to a federal range located in the lower 48. MDA officials cited increasing technical challenges, logistical support issues, increasing costs and schedule risks as the reason for the move.

According to Dr. Patricia Sanders, deputy of the MDA Test and Assessment division, “The support of the University of Alaska and the local community and military organizations has been excellent and in no way contributed to the decision.”

Though most rockets launched at Poker Flat are not guided, a guided rocket was launched from the range in 1992. That successful launch sent a high-powered telescope into the aurora.

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