NASA rockets team up with satellites to study electric generator
NASA will be launching two sounding rockets under its Dynamo-2 mission to team up with a satellite. This will help in studying the giant electric current in Earth’s ionosphere.
Scheduled to be launched on separate days, the two rockets will team up with Nasa’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) satellite to advance the understanding of the atmospheric dynamo.
Scott England, a space physicist at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and collaborator for the upcoming Dynamo-2 campaign, said, "It’s a really tricky part of space to get measurements, because the air is much too thin for an aircraft, and yet it's still too dense to fly most spacecraft". He added, "So one way of making these measurements is to fly a rocket through it".
As per NASA, the atmospheric dynamo is a pattern of electrical current that swirls in continent-sized circuits high above our heads.
As it is driven by the Sun, it migrates across the planet, centered wherever the Sun is directly overhead.
Most measurements of the dynamo come from magnetometers on the ground. This monitors how the current disturbs Earth’s magnetic field.
Ground-based measurements have their advantages, including how they can monitor one location for long periods of time, for instance.
The Dynamo-2 rockets will launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia between July 6-20. The two rockets will not be launched on the same day.
As per NASA, the launch window on July 6 runs from 12:15 p.m. to 2 p.m. EDT. On July 7-13, the launch window runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. EDT and from 8 a.m. to noon EDT on July 14-20.
Live coverage of the launches will begin 20 minutes before the opening of the launch window on the Wallops Youtube Site. The NASA Visitor Center at Wallops will not be open for this mission. The launches may be visible in the mid-Atlantic region.
Takumi Abe, space physicist at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, and collaborator for the Dynamo missions, said, "While ground-based methods can provide large-scale, integrated measurements, sounding rockets give us local, fine-scale data on the ionospheric current. That's when we use sounding rockets – when we'd like to see the small-scale physics".