Science Space

An experiment to research Earth’s ionosphere is launched by a Space Force sounding rocket

On March 3, Air Force Research Laboratory trial was launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility situated in Virginia by a 3-stage suborbital sounding rocket. Space Vector Corp. of California was one of the two firms chosen by the Air Force in the year 2018 for Sounding Rocket Program-4.

This was the company’s first sounding rocket deployment. A $424 million numerous-award contract was awarded to Northrop Grumman and Space Vector to deploy sounding rockets over a 7-year period. According to Todd Pedersen, who serves as the program manager at AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate at the Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, the deployment on Wednesday was to research the Earth’s ionosphere.

According to Pedersen, the pink clouds were noticeable in the area after sixty pounds of the powdered material got heated to a high degree by the fuel mixture and expelled from the rocket in the gaseous form. He noticed that the experiment was carried out at a height of over 100 miles and that the mixture dissipated naturally, causing no damage to the atmosphere.

Tiny research vehicles, known as sounding rockets, take scientific payloads into space for brief periods, only a few minutes. The ionosphere can be determined, according to Pedersen, by throwing radio waves off it with “sounders.” The period it does take for echo to return at each frequency can be put to good use to calculate the ionosphere’s density.

“While the essential processes that shape the ionosphere are well understood, it is a very complicated structure with many specifics that remain unknown,” Pedersen said. He clarified that the ionosphere, such as the surface of ocean or even a lake, has several waves and ripples that propagate through it, causing changes in space and time. “The more we learn about these processes, the more we will be able to comprehend how they impact systems.”

Kratos Space and Missile Defense and Space Vector collaborated to create the vehicle. The Space and Missile Systems Center targets division and small launch at the Kirtland Air Force Base manages the Sounding Rocket Program-4 system. The Space Vector deployment was the first small launch flight for the Space Force in 2021, and the very first under the Sounding Rocket Program-4 deal.

The U.S. Space Force is the United States’ space service division. Armed Forces are among the eight uniformed forces of the United States and the globe’s first and only autonomous space force. The United States Space Force, together with its sister branch, the United States Air Force, is the military service branch. The Air Force is a component of the Air Force Department, one of the Department of Defense’s three civilian-led military divisions.