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Graphic representing the various Heliophysics disciplines; Sun, Earth, Space Weather, Near-Earth Space and the Magnetosphere.
Science Mission Directorate:

Understanding the Sun, Heliosphere, and Planetary Environments as a single connected system is a goal of the Heliophysics Research Program.

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Sounding Rockets

Launch photo of Terrier Oriole rocket
NASA's Wallops Flight Facility

The Wallops Flight Facility, located on Virginia's Eastern Shore, manages all sounding rocket launches for the agency.

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ATREX Features

atrex rockets blow luminous smoke rings in the upper atmosphere

Successful ATREX Launch From Wallops

The first rocket was launched at 4:58 a.m. EDT and each subsequent rocket was launched 80 seconds apart with each releasing a chemical tracer.

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Tracer release and camera observation locations for ATREX mission.

NASA Jet Stream Study Will Light up The Night Sky

NASA will launch five sounding rockets in approx. five minutes to study high-altitude winds and their connection to the electrical current patterns ...

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ATREX Press Releases

ATREX Overview

    Launch Madness at Wallops in March - "Five in Five"

    wispy luminous clouds over the wallops launch facility
    Wispy luminous clouds light up the night sky over Wallops Island, Virginia early in the morning of March 27. Credit: NASA/Wallops

    NASA successfully launched five suborbital sounding rockets this morning from its Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia as part of a study of the upper level jet stream. The first rocket was launched at 4:58 a.m. EDT and each subsequent rocket was launched 80 seconds apart.

    Each rocket released a chemical tracer that created milky, white clouds at the edge of space. Tracking the way the clouds move can help scientists understand the movement of the winds some 65 miles up in the sky, which in turn will help create better models of the electromagnetic regions of space that can damage man-made satellites and disrupt communications systems.

    The launches and clouds were reported to be seen from as far south as Wilmington, N.C.; west to Charlestown, W. Va.; and north to Buffalo, N.Y.

    The Anomalous Transport Rocket Experiment (ATREX) is a Heliophysics sounding rocket mission that will gather information needed to better understand the process responsible for the high-altitude jet stream located 60 to 65 miles above the surface of the Earth.

    The high-altitude jet stream is higher than the one commonly reported in weather forecasts. The winds found in this upper jet stream typically have speeds of 200 to well over 300 mph and create rapid transport from the Earth's mid latitudes to the polar regions. This jet stream is located in the same region where strong electrical currents occur in the ionosphere. It is therefore a region with a lot of electrical turbulence, of the type that can adversely affect satellite and radio communications.

    The sounding rockets used for the mission were two Terrier-Improved Malemutes , two Terrier-Improved Orions and one Terrier-Oriole.

    Combined photo of four chemical tracer trails in the atmosphere. › View larger
    Four trimethyl aluminum (TMA) trails from a prior mission flown from Poker Flat, Alaska, in February 2009. Credit: Miguel Larsen/Clemson Univ.
    The five rockets released a chemical tracer that formed milky, white tracer clouds, allowing scientists and the public to "see" the winds in space. In addition, two of the rockets carried instrumented payloads to measure the pressure and temperature in the atmosphere at the height of the high-speed winds.

    Download .kmz file of the ATREX flight paths for use with Google Earth.

ATREX Image Gallery

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