Rocket recovery complete

Release Date: 
Thursday, March 10, 2005

For Immediate Release

Debris from the Black Brant XII sounding rocket that malfunctioned during flight on Sunday, March 6 were recovered and transported back to Poker Flat Research Range. Remnants of the rocket, CASCADES, will now be analyzed as part of an investigation to see what caused the failure of the rocket's third stage, which dropped hundreds of miles shy of its intended location. Once the snow melts, range staff will search again to see if there is any additional debris.

CASCADES was designed to fly for 14 minutes, reaching an altitude of 373 vertical miles before landing on the polar ice sheet. Due to a malfunction that occurred minutes into the flight, the rocket fell prematurely, landing in the range's impact zone, just north of the range.

The four-stage rocket launched at 1:31 a.m. Sunday morning. It reached an altitude of about 18 vertical miles, and flew for 5 minutes. The first two stages appeared to function properly, but normal ignition of the third stage did not occur, according to NASA personnel.

Dartmouth College scientist Kristina Lynch is the principal investigator for the CASCADES project. The rocket's mission was to fly through the auroral curtain to learn more about what prompts the movement and shape of the aurora. Data was transmitted from the rocket during its short flight, and scientists will try to utilize as much of this information as possible.

Poker Flat Research Range is located 30 miles north of Fairbanks. It is operated by the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, under contract to NASA.


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