University of Alaska Fairbanks

Poker launches scheduled

How do you keep a National Aeronautics and Space Administration sounding rocket warm once it’s in launch position during the snow and ice season in Alaska’s Interior? Styrofoam boxes, of course. A heater delivers warm air inside the tube of connected boxes to keep the rocket warm. The styrofoam sheets are tacked together with the same kind of bamboo skewers we all use on the charcoal grill in the summer.

The Geophysical Institute’s Poker Flat Research Range is getting ready for launch season. The first launch window opens Nov. 5.

“We have two night-time launches scheduled in November,” PFRR Manager Kathe Rich said. “And three more in the spring that will be launched during the day.”

In November, principal investigator Mehdi Benna, senior research scientist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and a researcher at Goddard Space Flight Center, wants a stable auroral arc over the Fort Yukon area in order for his launch to take place. PI Geoff Reeves, a senior scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory Reeves, would like no aurora if possible. Both are NASA sounding rocket missions administered through Wallops Flight Facility.

Poker Flat Research Range staff are working on providing a live feed either with video and audio or audio only. Visit the PFRR Facebook page for more information.

The three solar flare missions launch window will run from mid-March through mid-May (subject to change depending on conditions). These will be the first solar missions that have been run from Poker Flat.

The Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks owns Poker Flat, located at Mile 30 Steese Highway, north of Fairbanks. The institute operates it under a contract with NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, which is part of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.