Range staff search for rocket debris

Release Date: 
Sunday, March 6, 2005

For Immediate Release

CASCADES, a rocket project of Dartmouth College scientist Kristina Lynch, launched at 1:37 a.m. this morning from Poker Flat Research Range. The four-stage Black Brant XII rocket reached an altitude of about 18 vertical miles, and flew for 5 minutes. Although the first two stages appeared to function properly, normal ignition of the third stage did not occur. Range staff and NASA personnel believe the failure occurred during the rocket's third stage, but are unsure what exactly triggered the malfunction. The rocket debris will be retrieved and analyzed as part of an investigation.

Poker Flat Research Range staff is using snow machines and a small aircraft to look for remnants of the rocket. Debris landed in the range's designated impact zone in the White Mountains, based on the final GPS information transmitted from the rocket before impact. Range staff hopes to locate the debris as soon as possible. No injuries have been reported.

It's highly unlikely any of the rocket's pyrotechnics, or fuel survived the explosion at impact, however until recovery is complete, the rocket's debris should be considered hazardous.

CASCADES' mission was to probe the auroral curtain to learn more about its structure.

Poker Flat Research Range is the world's largest land-based sounding rocket range. It has launched more than 2,000 rockets since it opened in 1969. It is located 30 miles north of Fairbanks on the Steese Highway, and operated by the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, under contract to NASA.

Amy Hartley, Geophysical Institute Information Officer: (907) 474-5823