After Delays, ATREX Mission Finally Takes Off
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Nearly two weeks and several delays later, NASA finally received optimal conditions today at 4:58 a.m. EDT to launch its five-rocket ATREX mission from Virginia as part of its study of the jet stream.
The five rockets blasted off early this morning from NASA’s Wallops Island space center. The launch, originally scheduled for March 15, was initially delayed due to a malfunction in one of the rocket’s internal radio frequency systems. The Anomalous Transport Rocket Experiment — or ATREX — also needed a clear night sky with optimal viewing conditions.
But those optimal viewing conditions didn’t arise until the early hours on March 27, giving NASA the window it needed to launch the five rockets in succession. The rockets were launched about 80 seconds apart from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. They shot more than 50 miles up into the night sky at about 5,000 miles per hour, releasing glowing chemical tracers visible along the eastern coastal night sky.
The ATREX program will help scientists better understand how the jet stream works, located between 60 and 65 miles above Earth’s surface. The chemical tracers were monitored by stations in North Carolina and New Jersey, as well as in Wallops.
Image 1: NASA image of a cloud created by the research. Credit: NASA
Image 2: A sounding rocket launches on March 27, 2012 as part of the ATREX mission from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. Credit: NASA