The ICI-5 sounding rocket launched 07:43:04 UT Nov. 26th from Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard, into a beautiful red auroral arc

After two years of electronic construction, programming and testing, mechanical construction, integration and testing, the 12,1-meter-long ICI-5 sounding rocket was launched from SvalRak, the Andøya Space Center (ASC) launch site at Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard at 08:43, local time.

Photo by Helge Markussen.

The main scientific instruments were the two ASC/University of Oslo (UiO) 4DSpace modules, each containing ejectable 6 sub-payloads. These 12 “daughters” were to be ejected 4 by 4 as the rocket passed 196km (last ejection at 204 km) altitude on its way up into space, and immediately start communicating their “UiO Multi-Needle Langmuir Probe (mNLP) measurements of electron densities to the main module onboard the sounding rocket payload. This way, the 4DSpace experiment would enable the Grand Challenge Initiative Cusp (GCI Cusp) scientists to find out whether GPS signal disturbances are created by auroral electron beams or by some other instability mechanism. This is critical knowledge in order to develop a space weather model to forecast GPS positioning problems in the arctic.

In addition to the 4DSpace experiments, the ICI-5 payload also brought these instruments:

Bifocal Sensor electron spectrometer – Universitu of Iowa (U Iowa), Electric Field and Wave experiment – UiO, Miniaturized Fluxgate Magnetometer – U Iowa, Sounding Rocket Attitude Detection System (SRADS) – UiO and Distribution of Energetic Electrons and Protons (DEEP) – University of Bergen (UiB).

Following the launch, it was quickly reported that science team picked a prime science event.  All payload events were reported as nominal and a solid track was provided by both the Norwegian and NASA ground assets.  Then the team experienced the occasional roller coaster ride that is sounding rockets. 

Unfortunately, after data review, it was apparent that a roll rate anomaly was experienced, precluding the instruments from functioning as intended.

ICI-5 had a maximum altitude of 252 km and was the Norwegian participation in the major international sounding rocket project – Grand Challenge Initiative Cusp. Currently, there are two more GCI Cusp rockets on the rails awaiting launch from Andøya and Ny-Ålesund.

ICI-5 mission highlights:

  • In a cooperative effort between Andøya Space Center and University of Oslo, researchers and engineers have developed the 4DSpace measurement technology. A unique concept.
  • The team was able to effectively pinpoint and launch a sounding rocket through a thin northern auroral arc, which have a 10-min lifespan and move in space. This is expertise the teams from UiO, The University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS), UiB and ASC have built up together. This expertise is in high demand in the GCI Cusp and similar projects.
  • Potentially, 3 new instruments were space tested: BIFOCAL electron spectrometer from Iowa, Flux Gate Magnetometer from Iowa, and a high energy particle detector from UiB. Later, data will show whether these have been lifted from TRL 1-2 to level 5-6 (for satellites). If so, this is worth millions of dollars.
  • ICI-5 is the Norwegian share in GCI Cusp Initiative. ICI-5 PI is also project scientist for GCI Cusp and Norwegian scientists are also involved in ten other rocket missions.
  • With GCI Cusp, an “international Cusp observation system” for SIOS is under construction, which will later be filled with data from both rockets, satellites and ground data. This is important for the international space community.