NASA rocket barrage will light up Mid-Atlantic coast

NASA will fire five sounding rockets in five minutes to gather high-altitude jet stream data

nasa rocket madness
NASA will this week detail a mission where it will launch five rockets in five minutes from its Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia that will light up the night sky for millions of folks in a swath between New York City and about Wilmington, NC.

The five rocket blasts, which could occur between March 14 and April 4  are part of what the space agency calls the Anomalous Transport Rocket Experiment (ATREX), a Heliophysics sounding rocket mission that aims to gather data needed to better understand the high-altitude jet stream located 60 to 65 miles above the surface of the Earth, NASA said. 

More: 8 surprising hunks of space gear that returned to Earth

According to NASA, the five rockets will release a chemical tracer that will form milky, white tracer clouds that let scientists and the public to "see" the winds in space. In addition, two of the rockets will have instrumented payloads, to measure the pressure and temperature in the atmosphere at the height of the high-speed winds.

"The high-altitude jet stream is higher than the one commonly reported in weather forecasts. The winds found in this upper jet stream typically have speeds of 200 to well over 300 mph and create rapid transport from the Earth's mid-latitudes to the polar regions. This jet stream is located in the same region where strong electrical currents occur in the ionosphere. It is therefore a region with a lot of electrical turbulence, of the type that can adversely affect satellite and radio communications," NASA stated. 

sounding rocket
According to NASA, sounding rockets, which can weigh about 3,000lbs,  take their name from the nautical term "to sound," which means to take measurements. Since 1959, NASA-sponsored space and earth science research has used sounding rockets to test instruments used on satellites and spacecraft and to provide information about the Sun, stars, galaxies and Earth's atmosphere and radiation.

More: NASA identifies Top Ten space junk missions

Such sounding rocket testing is unique because it's simple, cost-effective and time efficient, NASA said. The experiments for the payload can be developed in about six months. The rockets are typically divided into two parts: the payload and a solid-fueled rocket motor. The two stages can burn for about a minute or less.  Many of the motors used are surplus military motors.

The sounding rockets being used for this  mission are two Terrier-Improved Malemutes , two Terrier-Improved Orions and one Terrier-Oriole.

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