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Sounding Rocket Launch at White Sands Testing New Payload Systems
February 2013 Update: The sounding rocket test flight for uplink resources with multiple technology experiments launched on February 15, 2013 at 11:34 am EST. It acquired successful uplinks, 20 Mb telemetry free of dropouts, and data for other technology experiments appeared nominal.

The team prepares the Rosanova payload for launch. View Larger Image
The sounding rocket team prepares the Rosanova payload for launch.
A test of several technologies to improve pointing control and data collection capabilities during suborbital flights will be conducted during a sounding rocket launch at noon (MST) February 15 from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

The primary purpose of the mission is to verify the ground based command uplink equipment from when it was recently moved into a new facility at White Sands.

The sounding rocket program also is taking this opportunity to test technology developments, as well as provide an educational experience for students at the White Sands Middle School.

Giovanni Rosanova, payload systems manager in the Sounding Rockets Program Office at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia said, “We are always trying to make improvements in the capabilities that we can offer scientists flying experiments on our rockets.” “In addition, sounding rockets are a valuable tool for providing hands-on education for students. So, we are pleased to be able to provide this experience for the White Sands community,” he said.

The technology improvements include: testing an upgrade to the solar Pointing Attitude Rocket Control System (PSARCS) to achieve half the current pitch/yaw jitter rate; double the telemetry data rate from the current capability of 10 mega bits per second to 20 mega bits per second; flight test a standard on-board data recording system that can be used as a back-up data capture method for payloads that are to be recovered; and develop a low-cost attitude determination sensor package.

The students at the middle school will be flying an environmental data recorder provided by NASA to measure accelerations and temperatures during the flight. Members of the rocket team have been tutoring the students on how to program the data recorder and extract and analyze the flight data after recovery.

The 710-pound payload will be flying on a 37-foot tall NASA Terrier-Improved Orion sounding rocket. The peak altitude is projected to be around 65 miles. The payload will descend via a parachute and land around 13 minutes after launch. The payload is planned to be recovered.