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Nighttime Rocket Launch To Create Colorful Clouds in Space

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Posted June 13, 2017

The launch of a Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket scheduled for June 12 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility has been postponed due to clouds impacting the ability to test a new ampoule ejection system designed to support studies of the ionosphere and aurora.

The launch is now scheduled for Tuesday, June 13, with a launch window from 9:04 to 9:19 p.m.

NASA has two ground stations—at Wallops and Duck, N.C.—to view blue-green and red artificial clouds that will be produced as part of the test. Clear skies are required at one of the two ground stations for this test. Clouds obscured the viewing area at both viewing sites for the June 12 launch attempt.

The ampule doors on the sounding rocket payload are open during testing at the Wallops Flight Facility.
Credits: NASA/Berit Bland

The June 12 attempt was the sixth for this mission. Previous scrubs have been due to a variety of issues, such as high winds, clouds, and boats in the hazard area.

The multi-canister ampoule ejection system flying on this mission will allow scientists to gather information over a much larger area than previously able.

Canisters will deploy between 4 and 5.5 minutes after launch releasing blue-green and red vapor to form artificial clouds. These clouds, or vapor tracers, allow scientists on the ground to visually track particle motions in space. The clouds may be visible along the mid-Atlantic coastline from New York to North Carolina.

The NASA Visitor Center at Wallops will open at 8 p.m. on launch day for viewing the flight.

Live coverage of the mission is scheduled to begin at 8:30 p.m. on the Wallops Ustream site. A Facebook live is also planned beginning at 8:50 p.m. on www.facebook.com/NASAWFF. Launch updates also are available via the Wallops Facebook and Twitter sites.

This map shows the projected visibility of the vapor tracers during the May 31 mission. The vapor tracers may be visible from New York to North Carolina and westward to Charlottesville, Virginia.
Credits: NASA

Original Story: The early morning skies along the mid-Atlantic coast will light up with luminescent clouds as NASA tests a new system that supports science studies of the ionosphere and aurora with a sounding rocket launch May 31 from the Wallops Flight Facility on the eastern shore of Virginia. Backup launch days are June 1 through 6.

During the flight of a two-stage Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket between 4:25 and 4:42 a.m. EDT, 10 canisters about the size of a soft drink can will be deployed in the air, 6 to 12 miles away from the 670-pound main payload.

The canisters will deploy between 4 and 5.5 minutes after launch forming blue-green and red artificial clouds. These clouds, or vapor tracers, allow scientists on the ground to visually track particle motions in space.

The development of the multi-canister ampoule ejection system will allow scientists to gather information over a much larger area than previously allowed when deploying the tracers just from the main payload.

Ground cameras will be stationed at Wallops and in Duck, North Carolina, to view the vapor tracers. Clear skies are required at one of the two ground stations for this test.

The vapor tracers are formed through the interaction of barium, strontium and cupric-oxide. The tracers will be released at altitudes 96 to 124 miles high and pose no hazard to residents along the mid-Atlantic coast.

The vapor tracers may be visible from New York to North Carolina and westward to Charlottesville, Virginia.

The total flight time for the mission is expected to be about 8 minutes. The payload will land in the Atlantic Ocean about 90 miles from Wallops Island and will not be recovered.

The NASA Visitor Center at Wallops will open at 3:30 a.m. on launch day for viewing the flight.

Live coverage of the mission is scheduled to begin at 3:45 a.m. on the Wallops Ustream site. Launch updates also are available via the Wallops Facebook and Twitter sites.

Smartphone users can download the “What’s Up at Wallops” app, which contains information on the launch as well as a compass showing the precise direction for launch viewing.

Source: NASA

 

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