Launch window to open at Poker Flat Research Range

Release Date: 
Friday, February 25, 2005

For Immediate Release

Three rockets are scheduled to launch from Poker Flat Research Range this winter. The launch window officially opens at twilight, Sunday, Feb. 27, and will remain open until Tuesday, March 22. During this time, a total of three rockets will be launched. Two will gather data on Earth's mesospheric dust layer, and the third will fly through the aurora, probing the auroral curtain to learn more about its structure.

Two Orion sounding rockets will be launched in succession, taking multiple measurements of the structure of mesospheric dust layers as they fly through various conditions in the upper atmosphere.

When scientists determine conditions are optimum, the first rocket will launch at twilight. The second rocket will launch about two hours later. The two identical rockets are expected to fly as high as 62 vertical miles, The two missions will supplement data from four rockets flown during the 2002 Poker Flat Research Range campaign, under the supervision of Dr. Kristina Lynch.

Lynch, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College, also is the principal investigator of the much larger Black Brant XII sounding rocket also to fly this season. The rocket project, dubbed "Cascades," has four stages, a total of five separate payloads, and an onboard camera. An all-sky camera, operated by the Geophysical Institute, will also record Cascades' flight from the northern village of Kaktovik. The rocket will launch when skies are clear and the aurora is most active at both the range, and Kaktovik. The complex rocket mission will help scientists investigate the motions and structure of electron precipitation found nearly 386 miles above Earth.

Poker Flat Research Range is the largest land-based rocket range in the world and is the site of more than 2,000 rocket launches since it opened in 1969. It is located 30 miles north of Fairbanks, and operated by the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, under contract to NASA. Range staff work year-round preparing for the rocket launch season that typically lasts for several weeks each winter.


Poker Flat Research Range: (907) 455-2110
Amy Hartley, Information Officer, Geophysical Institute: (907) 474-5823