Rocket to measure auroral waves

January 22, 2003

University of Alaska Fairbanks Poker Flat Research Range will open its 2003 launch season today with a single-rocket mission designed to measure high-frequency wave signals in connection with the aurora. Known as HIBAR, the high bandwidth auroral rocket mission will have until Feb. 8 to get the right weather and auroral conditions to launch a two-stage Terrier-Black Brant IX sounding rocket into the aurora at altitudes where the high-frequency waves form.

The mission comes as a result of analysis on data gathered from Poker Flat rocket launches in 1997 and 2002. Data from those missions revealed detailed structure of high-frequency waves that had never before been recorded, an exciting development in auroral physics. Analysis of the findings led to a theory about the waves' characteristics that will be tested by HIBAR.

Historically, high-frequency waves in the ionosphere have been difficult to study because they occur at frequencies greater than 1 MHz, and spacecraft data telemetry rates have been inadequate to sample such waves. Recently, enhanced telemetry rates have become available on NASA sounding rockets at Poker Flat, allowing waves up to 5 MHz to be thoroughly measured.

The principal investigator for the HIBAR mission is Dr. James LaBelle from the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.

Since it was founded 35 years ago, more than 1500 meteorological rockets and 250 major high-altitude sounding rocket experiments have been launched from Poker Flat Research Range to conduct atmospheric research on diverse subjects including the aurora, the ozone layer, solar protons and electric, magnetic and ultraviolet fields.

University of Alaska Fairbanks

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