Four of five sounding rockets liftoff from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility (Virginia) in this time-lapse photograph of the ATREX mission. The experiment took place on March 27, 2012, producing white clouds to study fast-moving winds high in the thermosphere. The first rocket was launched at 4:58 am EDT, with following launches occurring at 80-second intervals. [See more photos here.]
Two of the clouds left in the wake of the ATREX experiment shine on March 27, 2012. The rockets released trimethyl aluminum, a substance that burns spontaneously in the presence of oxygen.
Skywatcher Alicia Bruce sent along this photo of the ATREX mission clouds taken on March 27, 2012, from Loudoun County, Virginia. She writes: "My husband and I are former meteorologists and self-described space nerds…. I saw the rockets shoot off from my backyard in northern Virginia. The first picture was taken at 4:58 am EDT as the first rocket was ascending. The streaks were faint and narrow at first, and then brightened. They were milky white, as stated they would be, and had a glowy, iridescent look to them. The rest of the rockets shot off one at a time, not long after the first. I believe I saw 4 of the 5, the 5th likely blocked by a neighbor's house. It was easy to see the jet stream winds blowing the chemical tracers from their original position. As for technical info, I used a Canon 7D and Canon 24-105 mm f/4 L lens."
Skywatcher Alicia Bruce took this photo of the ATREX mission clouds taken on March 27, 2012, from Loudoun County, Virginia.
Skywatcher Rick Darke sent this image of the ATREX mission taken from Landenberg, PA on March 27, 2012. He writes: "We sleep in a room with glass window doors with a view to the south, designed to keep us connected to events in the night sky and landscape. By chance my wife and I woke up just after 5am and saw something new to us. We first assumed it was a meteor shower. We watched what I now know was a rocket (thanks to SPACE.com) streaming vertically down and I sprinted for my camera. I missed the sharply defined rocket trail but caught the diffusion with a Sony A77 and 16-50mm f2.8 lens on a tripod, 4 second exposure at ISO 1000."
Skywatcher Mike Black saw the ATREX mission clouds over Wall, NJ on March 27, 2012.
Skywatcher Edison Carrillo photographed the ATREX mission clouds on March 27, 2012.
Skywatcher Mike Black saw the ATREX mission clouds over Wall, NJ on March 27, 2012.
Astrophotographer Jeff Berkes snapped this amazing view from outside Philadelphia, Pa., of the glowing clouds at the edge of space created by NASA's ATREX mission, which launched five rockets to deploy a chemical that created the clouds for a jet stream study on March 27, 2012. [Full Story]
The chemical release of five ATREX sounding rockets created a series of glowing clouds in the high-altitude jet stream at the edge of space on March 27, 2012. Here is NASA's view from the Wallops Flight Facility at Wallops Island, Va. [Full Story]
NASA launched five suborbital rockets in the early morning hours of March 27, 2012 to study the planet's upper level jet stream for the ATREX (Anomalous Transport Rocket Experiment) mission. Each of the rockets released a chemical tracer that created milky, white clouds at the edge of space that were reported to be seen from as far south as Wilmington, N.C., west to Charlestown, W. Va., and north to Buffalo, N.Y. [Full Story]
One of five sounding rockets launches on March 27, 2012 as part of the ATREX mission from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island in Virginia to light up the predawn sky with glowing clouds at the edge of space. [Full Story]
Three rockets that are part of the five rocket ATREX mission stand in launch position during testing at the Wallops Flight Facility. The rockets are placed in a foam box to maintain the temperature of the solid-fueled rocket motors and the payload. These boxes remain around the rockets until launch. At that point, the rocket rips through the foam as it leaves the launcher. Image released March 16, 2012.
A Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket stands ready for launch from Pad 1 on the 50K launcher at the Wallops Flight Facility. Two of this type of rocket will be used in the ATREX mission. Image released March 16, 2012.
This map of the United States' mid-Atlantic region shows the flight profile of NASA's five ATREX rockets, as well as the projected area where they may be visible after launch on March 14, 2012. The rockets' chemical tracers, meanwhile, should be visible from South Carolina through much of New England.
The red dots over the water show where the five rockets of NASA's ATREX mission will deploy chemical tracers to watch how super-fast winds move some 60 miles up in the atmosphere. Three cameras at different sites will track the cloud tracers.
Photographs of four trimethyl aluminum (TMA) trails released from rockets flown from Poker Flat, Alaska, in February 2009. TMA is chemiluminescent when exposed to oxygen in the atmosphere and can be seen with the naked eye or tracked with cameras. The trails are initially straight but are distorted by the wind shears and turbulence that occur naturally in the atmosphere.
Four of the ATREX rockets stand in the vertical launch position during a night-time dress rehearsal at the Wallops Flight Facility on March 15, 2012. Five suborbital rockets will be launched in just over five minutes as part of ATREX.
High in the sky, 60 to 65 miles above Earth's surface, winds rush through a little-understood region of Earth's atmosphere at speeds of 200 to 300 miles per hour. First noticed in the 1960s, the winds in this jet stream shouldn't be confused with the lower jet stream located around 30,000 feet, through which passenger jets fly and which is reported in weather forecasts. These two jet streams are 50 miles apart vertically. In March 2012, NASA will launch five rockets in approximately five minutes to study these high-altitude winds and their intimate connection to the complicated electrical current patterns that surround Earth.
This map shows the projected area in which the chemical tracers released by the ATREX rockets may be visible to the public. The clouds formed by the chemical tracers may be visible from the North Carolina/South Carolina border up to southern Vermont and New Hampshire and west to central West Virginia. Viewing is dependent on lighting in the area in which you are viewing, cloud cover and also the trajectory of the rocket.
NASA's ATREX mission will launch five rockets within five minutes to help scientists study the high-altitude jet stream located 60 to 65 miles above the surface of the Earth. The rockets being used for the mission are two Terrier-Improved Orions (left), one Terrier-Oriole (center) and two Terrier-Improved Malemutes (right).
Skywatcher and photographer Jack Fusco snapped this photo of the glowing clouds created by NASA's five-rocket ATREX launch from Seaside Park, N.J. (north of the rockets' Virginia launch site) on March 27, 2012. [Full Story]
The Terrier-Orion rocket system is a two-stage, spin-stabilized rocket system that utilizes a Terrier MK 12 Mod 1 or Mk70 for the first stage and an Improved Orion motor for the second stage. The Terrier motor is 18 inches in diameter and is configured with 2.5- or 4.8-square foot fin panels arranged in a cruciform configuration. The Orion motor is 14 inches in diameter and 110 inches long. The vehicle is typically configured with spin motors and the total weight of this configuration, excluding the payload, is approximately 2,900 pounds.
The Terrier Oriole is a two-stage, unguided, fin-stabilized rocket system that utilizes a Terrier first stage booster and an Oriole rocket motor for the second stage propulsion. The Terrier motor has four equally spaced fins, and the Oriole motor has four fins on the aft end arranged in a cruciform configuration to provide stability.
The Terrier-Malemute launch vehicle is a high-performance two-stage vehicle used for payloads weighing less than 400 pounds. The first stage booster consists of a Terrier MK 12 Mod 1 rocket motor with four 340 square inch fin panels arranged in a cruciform configuration. The Terrier booster has an overall diameter of 18 inches. For a payload weight of 200 pounds, the longitudinal acceleration during the boost phase is 26 G's. The second stage propulsion unit is a Thiokol Malemute TU-758 rocket motor which is designed especially for high-altitude research rocket applications. The external diameter of the Malemute is 16 inches.