UNIS Students are ‘go’ for Rocket Launch

UNIS Students are ‘go’ for Rocket Launch

Top image: The ICI-4 Rocket lifts off from Andøya. Photo: Trond Abrahamsen, Andøya Space Centre

AGF-304/804 Master and PhD students provided radar support for the University of Oslo scientific sounding rocket ICI-4 mission last night. The rocket was launched successfully from Andøya Space Centre at 23:06 local time.

20 February 2015
Text: Lisa Baddeley, Associate Professor in Radar Applications

The AGF-304/804 Master and PhD students, who were undertaking their fieldwork at the EISCAT Svalbard Radar, provided radar support for the University of Oslo scientific sounding rocket ICI-4 mission last night.

Map rocket launch Jøran Moen

Schematic of Polar Cap patches (shown in pink) as they move across the polar cap
and inside the auroral oval (Moen et al. 2013).

The rocket was launched successfully from Andøya Space Centre at 23.06 local time. It carried 7 scientific instruments and had a 10 minute flight path out over the Barents Sea, reaching an altitude of 362 km, before crashing down into the ocean.

The scientific aims of the ICI-4 mission were to take in-situ measurements of high density electron clouds (so called polar cap patches) which drift across the polar cap at auroral altitudes.

These patches can cause severe disruptions to HF communications and GNSS navigation systems like GPS, GLONASS and GALILEO.

The rocket was launched into one of these patches as it merged into the aurora allowing scientists to not only study the structure of the patch itself but also to observe what happens when it encounters the aurora.

Real time support
The P.I. for the mission, Prof. Jøran Moen, (Adjunct Professor at UNIS in the AGF department) was on site at Andøya launch control and real time support was provided by the UNIS team via Skype.

The EISCAT Svalbard Radar, operated by the students, made observations of the patches as they travelled over Svalbard towards Andøya. After several hours polar cap patches began to appear, having drifted across the polar cap from Alaska. Utilizing the radar data, the UNIS students calculated when the patches should intersect the rocket trajectory.

Observations made by the EISCAT UHF radar, located in Tromsø, confirmed the student’s calculations. The rocket was now poised for launch, awaiting suitable ground wind conditions at Andøya. As soon as the winds died down, the countdown was held at T-4 mins while Prof. Moen evaluated the scientific conditions.

At 23:02 a large patch, in combination with disturbances to GNSS navigation signals and auroral activity, was observed and predicted to intersect with the rocket trajectory in 10 minutes. The students, with the help of Prof. Kjellmar Oksavik among others, then assisted Prof. Moen to make the critical ‘go for launch’ decision.

At 23:06 the rocket lifted off to great celebrations at both Andøya and EISCAT control rooms. A few minutes later the rocket successfully travelled through the patch making the first ever measurements inside it.

– This would not be possible without contributions from EISCAT, UNIS and the ground-based facilities in Svalbard, which all were crucial to get the timing right, said Professor Jøran Moen after the launch.

UNIS AGF students after successful rocket campaign February 2015

AGF-304/804 students celebrate the successful rocket launch, together with Prof. Kjellmar Oksavik and Assoc. Prof. Lisa Baddeley (right). Photo: Alex Hall/ UNIS.

More information:

Video of the rocket launch – ICI-4 mission Facebook page
The ICI-4 homepage at the University of Oslo

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