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NASA Sets New Guinness World Record

Posted August 19, 2016

On September 16, 2015, a Black Brant XI sounding rocket was launched from Andoya, Norway and carried 37 rocket motors and a multi-instrument daughter payload into the ionosphere to study the generation of plasma wave electric fields and ionospheric density disturbances by the high-speed injection of dust particles. A primary sensor for the Charged Aerosol Release Experiment (CARE II) was the two SuperDARN CUTLASS radars that view the ocean north of Norway. The rocket motors firing simultaneously produced 66 kg of micron-sized dust particles composed of aluminium oxide. In addition to the dust, simple molecular combustion products such as N2, H2, CO2, CO, H20 and NO were injected into the F-layer. Charging of the dust and ion charge exchange with the molecules produced plasma particles moving at hypersonic velocities. Streaming instabilities and shear electric fields yield plasma turbulence that can be detected using ground radars and in situ plasma instruments. The instrument payload separated from the dust and molecular combustion product release payload soon after launch and measured electric field vectors, electron and ion densities, and integrated electron densities from the rocket to the ground. The release of high speed dust was directed upward on the downleg of the rocket trajectory to intersect the bottomside of the F-Layer. Ground HF and UHF radars operated to detect scatter and refraction by the modified ionosphere. Optical instruments were used to map the dispersal of the dust using scattered sunlight. The plasma interactions are being simulated with both fluid and particle-in‐cell (PIC) codes. CARE II is a follow-on to the CARE I rocket experiment conducted from Wallops Island Virginia in September 2009. The Principal Investigator is Dr. Paul Bernhardt/Naval Research Laboratory.

NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia has caught the attention of Guinness World Records. Wallops’ sounding rocket team conducted a mission that included the firing of 44 rocket engines. When the rocket launched on September 16, 2015, it set a world record for the most rocket engines fired on a single flight.

The Charged Aerosol Release Experiment II, or CARE II, studied the effects of dusty plasmas – charged particles that can occur naturally in the mesosphere — and the bulk of the rocket engines were burned to form an exhaust cloud of dusty plasma used for the experiment. Only three of the CARE II engines contributed to launching the rocket. Another four engines were spin motors, which are used to reduce the impact dispersion of the rocket. The remaining 37 engines provided the exhaust cloud.

CARE II was led by Paul A. Bernhardt with the Naval Research Lab, or NRL, in Washington, DC, and conducted from the Andoya Rocket Range in Norway.guinnesbookrecordsrpo-1_002

Although the rocket carried an NRL experiment, Wallops had a big hand in the mission. The team implementing the NRL concept for the multi-rocket-motor dust release module and leading the construction of CARE II are at Wallops.

Phil Eberspeaker, Office Chief for the Sounding Rocket Program, said, “Being recognized by Guinness World Records for this achievement is icing on the cake for the entire team. To successfully carry out this mission required great planning from everyone involved.”

NASA’s sounding rocket program provides a fast, cost-effective way of conducting science through suborbital missions. Each sounding rocket carries a payload with a very specific experiment. Science conducted and instruments flown may be used in the development of other space science missions.

With a combined vehicle and payload weight of nearly 6 tons, the Black Brant XI vehicle carried the CARE II payload and its multiple scientific instruments into the ionosphere, 186 miles above Earth. In a mission lasting only 10 minutes, scientists were able to generate the dusty plasma they wished to study by rapidly injecting dust particles made of aluminum oxide and other compounds into the ionosphere. This dust was then charged, producing plasma particles moving at hypersonic velocities. The resulting ionospheric disturbances were detected with in situ plasma instruments and recorded using ground-based scientific radars.

Chuck Brodell, Sounding Rocket Program vehicle manager, said he doesn’t anticipate Wallops breaking this record again in the near future, but “you never know what’s down the pike.”

CARE II is a follow-on to the CARE I rocket experiment conducted in September 2009 at Wallops. The NASA sounding rocket portion of both the CARE I and II missions were funded by the Department of Defense Space Test Program, which is charted to fund spaceflight for experiments.

NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility launches approximately 20 sounding rockets every year. Launches are routinely conducted from Wallops, Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska, White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, Esrange in Sweden and the Andoya Rocket Range.

NASA’s Sounding Rocket Program is conducted at the agency’s Wallops Flight Facility, which is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. NASA’s Heliophysics Division manages the sounding-rocket program for the agency.

Source: NASA

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