March 15, 2012
NASA Jet Stream Study Delayed
A NASA five-rocket launch scheduled to begin at 12am on March 15 to study the jet stream´s current has been delayed due to an internal radio frequency interference problem with one of the rockets, according to a NASA update posted on its website.
NASA engineers detected the malfunction as they prepared for the launch of the rockets, which were scheduled to blast off within five minutes of one another at NASA´s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia.
“We scrubbed for tonight and our next attempt will be no earlier than Friday night, March 16,” NASA spokesman Keith Koehler told SPACE.com from the launch site late Wednesday night.
Mission scientists are meeting today to discuss the problem and also study weather reports for a potential Friday night launch, he said.
The mission is part of NASA´s Anomalous Transport Rocket Experiment (ATREX), a $4 million program formed to study the high-altitude currents of the jet stream. Wind that typically circles the Earth at speeds of 200 to 300 mph at 60 to 65 miles above the surface, the jet stream perplexes scientists, who have theorized they should only be reaching speeds of around 50 mph.
The five rockets, each spending about 8 to 10 minutes in flight, will release chemical tracers known as trimethyl aluminum into the atmosphere as they make their flight across the night sky. The experiment is designed to spray the material into the jet stream so observers on Earth can map the winds. The trails are expected to be visible as glowing milky white clouds visible to sky watchers along the northeastern coast from South Carolina to New England.
Koehler said the window for a launch stretches from March 16 to April 3. If the radio frequency issue is resolved, but the weather doesn´t cooperate on Friday, the agency will push for a possible weekend liftoff or plan for another launch attempt sometime next week, he added.
Koehler said the launch needs a clear night for optimal viewing conditions of the milky white chemical trails. They will be visible for roughly 20 minutes in the night sky.
Visit http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/missions/atrex.html for updates.