The AZURE Launch Campaign

In February and March, Andøya Space Center conducted a sounding rocket campaign for NASA. The campaign consisted of two rockets designed to study specific phenomena related to the aurora.

  • The AZURE sounding rockets on the launch pad at ASC.

In order to visualize the aurora related phenomena the rocket payloads included containers with various types of metal powder. Special cameras was deployed to Andenes, Alta og Gjesvær, in addition to a NASA operated aircraft flying south east of Bear Island. These cameras would enable scientists to understand the aurora related phenomena in three dimensions.

The metal powder consists of the same components found in traditional fireworks.

The experiment is set to be released between 150 to 250 kilometers altitude, making it visible for most of northern Norway. The launch window was restricted – due to science requirements – to a few hours each night between March 3rd to March 20th.

In order to launch the two sounding rockets several conditions had to occur at the same time: an active aurora display at the desired location, good wind conditions and clear skies over at least two camera sites.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, and the rockets were never launched.

The first half of the period had good weather conditions, but unfortunately with bad scientific conditions. Then came a few days with variable scientific conditions and variable weather and wind conditions. The last days of the period were characterized by bad weather and difficult wind conditions, but with good scientific conditions.

All personnel involved worked very hard to make this campaign a success and are of course disappointed that it was not possible to conduct safe launches, but this do happen from time to time.

We are now looking forward to, and preparing for, a repeat campaign next year.