Rocket successfully launched from Poker Flat Monday night

Release Date: 
Tuesday, January 28, 2003


After six nights of waiting for the optimal weather and auroral conditions to occur, the first rocket of the 2003 season was successfully launched from Poker Flat Research Range yesterday at 10:50 p.m. The rocket, a two-stage Terrier-Black Brant IX, captured measurements of high-frequency wave signals related to the aurora as part of the High Bandwidth Auroral Rocket (HIBAR) experiment.

The rocket flew 385 kilometers high through the aurora to obtain measurements that will help scientists understand the structure and characteristics of high-frequency waves and turbulence created by the aurora. The resulting data will be added to measurements gathered from previous launches from Poker Flat using different instruments in 1997 and 2002 and analyzed over the next year to test a theory about the waves’ characteristics. If successful, the experiment will confirm plasma theory results that apply not only to the aurora, but also to the solar atmosphere and other planetary atmospheres.

“Because the waves cycle at millions of times per second, we used special, high-bandwidth instruments to measure the waves. The special instruments allowed us to receive data from the rocket at a rate higher than any previous aurora sounding rocket to date,” said HIBAR Principal Investigator James LaBelle.

Historically, high-frequency waves in the ionosphere have been difficult to study because they occur at frequencies greater than 1 MHz, and spacecraft data telemetry rates have been inadequate to sample such waves. Recently, enhanced instrumentation carried by NASA sounding rockets launched from Poker Flat have allowed waves up to 5 MHz to be thoroughly measured.

The next launch window at Poker Flat will begin on February 18 and extend through March 8. Two rocket missions will share the window, waiting for optimal weather and auroral conditions to launch a total of 6 rockets.

Poker Flat Research Range is owned by the University of Alaska and operated by the Geophysical Institute under contract to NASA.

James LaBelle, HIBAR Mission Principal Investigator:
January 28, 1 – 5 p.m.: (907) 455-2110 (Poker Flat Research Range)
January 29, 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.: (907) 474-6316 (Geophysical Institute)
Vicki Daniels, Public Relations Specialist, UAF Geophysical Institute: (907) 474-5823