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NASA launches rocket in the hunt for aurora solutions

The NASA Black Brant XII rocket lifts off with the KiNET-X experiment at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, on Sunday, May 16, 2021. Credit: NASA Wallops/Terry Zaperach

NASA launched one in all its largest sounding rockets Sunday from an East Coast facility in an experiment led by a University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute space physics professor.

The four-stage Black Brant XII rocket carrying the KiNET-X experiment of principal investigator Peter Delamere lifted off from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia at 8:44 p.m. Eastern time. The ascent of the rocket, which flew on an arc into the ionosphere earlier than starting its deliberate descent over the Atlantic Ocean close to Bermuda, could possibly be seen alongside the East Coast.

The experiment seeks to know how a big mass of plasma such because the solar wind interacts on the particle stage with, for instance, the plasma of Earth’s space environment.

The interplay between the solar wind and a planet’s magnetosphere seems because the aurora, whether or not right here on Earth or on one other planet that has a magnetic area and a considerable environment. Physicists have lengthy been making an attempt to know how the interplay works.

“KiNET-X was a fantastic success, as the Wallops and science teams worked through unprecedented pandemic-related challenges,” Delamere mentioned. “Hats off to all involved. We couldn’t have asked for a better outcome tonight.”

The rocket launched two canisters of barium thermite, which have been then detonated—one at about 249 miles excessive and one 90 seconds in a while the downward trajectory at about 186 miles, close to Bermuda within the North Atlantic Ocean. The detonations produced purple and inexperienced clouds.

NASA launches rocket in search of aurora answers
Glowing clouds created by the discharge of barium into the ionosphere. Credit: Don Hampton, University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute

The barium, as soon as dispersed from the canisters, was a plasma when it grew to become ionized by the daylight. The barium plasma clouds, which generated their very own electromagnetic fields and waves, then interacted with the prevailing plasma of the ionosphere.

The experiment’s science crew has already begun analyzing the information from that interplay.

The launch got here on the ultimate day of the 10-day launch window. Previous days had been tormented by unhealthy climate at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility and in Bermuda, unacceptably high winds at higher elevations, and an incident through which the rocket “came in contact with a launcher support during launch preparations,” based on NASA.

The experiment included three different Geophysical Institute space and plasma scientists: Project co-investigator Don Hampton, a Geophysical Institute analysis affiliate professor, was in Bermuda for floor observations; Geophysical Institute researchers Mark Conde, a space physics professor, and Antonius Otto, an emeritus professor of plasma physics, monitored the experiment from Fairbanks.

Two UAF college students pursuing Ph.Ds on the Geophysical Institute additionally participated. Matthew Blandin supported optical operations at Wallops Flight Facility, and Kylee Branning was at Langley Air Research Center working cameras on a NASA Gulfstream III monitoring the experiment.

The experiment additionally included researchers and tools from Dartmouth University, University of New Hampshire, Clemson University, University of Maryland and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Preparation started in 2018, when NASA authorized the mission.

NASA Wallops May 7 rocket launch exploring energy transport in space

NASA launches rocket in the hunt for aurora solutions (2021, May 18)
retrieved 18 May 2021
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