Nasa Ionospheric Experiment

Frank Gentges
Thu, 1 Jul 1999 01:11:55 +0000 (GMT)


In case you might have missed an opportunity to try some LF propagation 


Douglas Isbell 
Headquarters, Washington, DC                             June 29, 1999
(Phone:  202/358-1547)

Keith Koehler
Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, VA
(Phone:  757/824-1579)

RELEASE:  99-75


     NASA will set off its own Independence Day fireworks during a 
series of nighttime rocket launches from July 2 to 20, 1999.  Designed 
to study "space weather" -- the interaction of the solar wind with the 
Earth's magnetic field and atmosphere -- the experiments will focus on 
improving our understanding of electrically charged atoms at the edge of 

     During the 19-day period, two suborbital rockets will be launched 
on each of two nights between 9:30 p.m. and 4 a.m. EDT from the NASA 
Goddard Space Flight Center's Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, 

     Two of the experiment packages will release a chemical that will 
form large glowing clouds in space.  These luminescent milky-white 
clouds should be visible to the naked eye for several hundred miles from 
the launch site, encompassing the mid-Atlantic region and portions of 
the northeastern and southeastern United States. The clouds should be 
visible for 10 to 20 minutes to the southeast of the launch site at 
about 70 degrees elevation (approximately three-quarters of the way 
between the horizon and the point of the sky that appears to be directly 
above an observer).

     The chemical, trimethylaluminum, will be released in the ionosphere 
between 43 and 96 miles (69 to 154 kilometers) altitude.  The harmless 
by-products will disperse across thousands of miles as they diffuse into 
the upper atmosphere.

     The experiments will take place in a region above the Earth that at 
first appears to be empty and very quiet. In fact, the Earth's upper 
atmosphere actually is bustling with activity.  Here the solar wind (a 
fast-moving stream of particles emanating from the Sun), the Sun's 
magnetic field and Earth's magnetic field and atmosphere come together. 
Their interactions can create disturbances just above Earth's lower 

     These disturbances can affect radio, television and satellite 
communications.  By better understanding these interactions in the 
ionosphere, scientists hope to gain information that will ultimately 
help improve the reliability of radio and satellite communications.

     The specific aim of these experiments is to explore metallic ion 
layers (regions of electrically charged particles) that exist about 60 
miles (100 kilometers) above the Earth and to understand how their 
interactions with wind in the upper atmosphere create large electric 
fields and turbulence.  The metallic ion layers are formed by material 
from meteors that have collided with the Earth's upper atmosphere.

     Each mission will consist of a one-stage Black Brant V rocket and a 
two-stage Taurus-Orion rocket.  The Black Brant V, which will carry 
instruments only, will be launched first.  The Taurus-Orion, carrying 
the chemical package, will be launched approximately three minutes 

     The status of the launches can be found by calling the Wallops 
Flight Facility launch status line at (757) 824-2050 or on the Wallops 
web page at:



Frank Gentges K0BRA