Nighttime Rocket Launch Creates Colorful Clouds in Space
The early morning skies along the mid-Atlantic coast were lit up by luminescent clouds as NASA tested a new system to support science studies of the ionosphere and aurora, with a sounding rocket launch June 24 from the Wallops Flight Facility on the eastern shore of Virginia. During the flight of a two-stage Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket, 10 canisters about the size of a soft drink can were deployed in the air, 6 to 12 miles away from the 670-pound main payload. The deployed canisters formed blue-green and red artificial clouds, or vapor tracers which allow scientists on the ground to visually track particle motions in space. The development of the multi-canister ampoule ejection system is also designed to allow scientists to gather information over a much larger area than previously allowed when deploying the tracers just from the main payload. The vapor tracers were expected to be visible from New York to North Carolina and westward to Charlottesville, Virginia – with the total flight time for the mission expected to be about 8 minutes.