Four Rockets Launched in Four Minutes from Poker Flat

Release Date: 
Friday, March 28, 2003


A series of four rockets were launched in rapid succession from Poker Flat Research Range at 3:09, 3:10, 3:12 and 3:13 a.m. Thursday as part of a mission to help scientists view wind associated with an aurora from cameras on the ground.

The first and third rockets in the experiment carried instruments to measure light and smallscale electrical currents in the upper atmosphere. The second and fourth rockets in the experiment were designed to release harmless, brilliant white chemical tracers of tri-methyl aluminum (TMA) in the upper atmosphere.

Luminous tracers released by the fourth rocket were photographed at ground stations at Toolik Lake, Arctic Village, Coldfoot, Old Crow, Alakaket and an automated site at Fort Yukon. The second rocket, a 41.028 Terrier-Orion, did not reach the predicted altitude.

“It would have been nice to observe tracers from both rockets, but one was enough to provide all the data we needed,” said Clemson University Professor Miguel Larsen, the principal investigator for the rocket mission. “The mission was a success. The experiment was good; we had good conditions; and we are happy with the data.”

The data will help scientists determine the speed and direction of wind in the upper atmosphere. Wind created by the aurora can affect the orbits of satellites and interfere with long-range radio and satellite transmissions. Information gained from the rocket flights will help scientists design, track and operate satellites and other manmade space systems more effectively.

Larsen’s rocket mission was the last of the 2003 Poker Flat launch season. The next launch scheduled to occur in 2005. Poker Flat Research Range, located 30 miles northeast of Fairbanks, is owned and operated by the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska Fairbanks under contract to NASA.


FOR MORE INFORMATION: Visit Miguel Larson’s current projects on the Web:

CONTACT: Clemson University Professor and Mission Principal Investigator Miguel Larsen, or Poker Flat Research Range Manger Greg Walker at (907) 455-2110