NASA goes launch crazy with plans for five rockets in five minutes

One thing we know is NASA knows how to launch a rocket. Now, the agency is upping its game by launching five rockets in five minutes to study the winds swirling in the atmosphere at the edge of space

The suborbital rockets are part of the Anomalous Transport Rocket Experiment (ATREX) and will reach the jet stream some 60 — 65 miles above the Earth. The launch of the five rockets is scheduled for next week, March 14 — weather conditions permitting — from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Why five rockets at a time? These small rockets will be looking at the high-altitude jet stream, and to do so they will release chemical tracers that form white clouds that will highlight wind patterns there which can exceed 300 miles per hour. Two of the rockets will also carry instruments to measure temperature and air pressure in addition to the tracers.

Understanding the whipping winds of the jet stream will be invaluable. These winds are higher up than those referred to in weather forecasts — they are part of the ionosphere where electrical turbulence occurs. And for anyone who relies on satellite or radio communications will appreciate this as disturbances there can affect performance.

In addition to helping us better understand the atmosphere for the sake of all our gadgets, the cool thing about this super-launch is that it should be visible to the naked eye for all those sky watchers along the Eastern Seaboard.

Assuming the weather is clear at the three camera tracking sites set up in Virginia, North Carolina and New Jersey and the lift off goes ahead on March 14 (the window for launch stretches through April 3), people from North Carolina to southern New York should not only be able to see the rockets launch, but the tracers spread out along the jet stream. You'll want to be looking skyward anytime between 11:00 pm EST and 6:30 am EST.

So none of those alien sighting calls, please.

Aside from their spectacular launch events, do you know why else we like NASA? They let the public in on their plans. NASA will host a press conference on the ARTEX mission at 1:00 pm ET, Wednesday, March 7 and will stream it live at http://www.nasa.gov/newsaudio.

They are also going to broadcast the launch-fest of the two Terrier-Improved Malemutes, two Terrier-Improved Orions and one Terrier-Oriole rockets starting two hours before the launch window. The webcast will be available at http://sites.wff.nasa.gov/webcast

So thanks NASA for what sounds like a great (and informative) show!

Space.com

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