NASA to Launch Five Rockets from Virginia; Will Be Visible Along East Coast

  on March 07 2012 12:05 PM

NASA will launch five rockets in five minutes between March 14 and April 3 to study high-speed winds 65 miles (105 kilometers) above the Earth's surface.  People along the Eastern Seaboard from North Carolina to New York will be able to see the rockets launched from Virginia's Wallops Flight Facility head towards the upper atmosphere.

The five rockets will collect information about the high-altitude jet stream, an area of high-speed winds commonly referred in weather forecasts, according to a NASA statement. Winds in the high-altitude jet stream typically reach 300 mph (480 km/h).

NASA will use five sounding rockets, rockets specifically made for sub-orbital research, to study the high-altitude jet stream. Two of the rockets will measure the atmospheric pressure and temperature of the jet stream.

Once in the jet stream, all five rockets will release a chemical that forms milky, white clouds called tracers. The tracer clouds will allow NASA researchers to see the winds. People from South Carolina to New England will be able to see the clouds as well.

The tracer clouds will be visible for 20 minutes after the rockets are launched.

The high-altitude jet stream is found in the same area is the ionosphere, a part of the atmosphere where strong electrical currents occur. Electrical currents in the ionosphere can disrupt satellite and radio communications and GPS signals.

NASA conducted a similar experiment in 2009 when the organization launched six rockets from Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska to study the ionosphere. The clouds created by the rockets pretty much filled up a big part of the sky, Gerald Lehmacher, the lead researcher for the experiment, said in a 2009 press release.

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