NASA ACES II ready for launch from Andøya Space
Two American research rockets are now ready for launch from Andøya. The sub-orbital rockets will launch within two minutes of each other.
ACES II is a follow-up mission from ACES, which launched from a site in Alaska in 2009. ACES is an abbreviation of Aurora Current and Electrodynamics Structures.
Northern lights research
The two rockets will perform simultaneous measurements inside a northern lights arc, but at different altitudes.
– One rocket will travel up to 410 kilometers altitude, says Kolbjørn Blix, VP Science & Technology at Andøya Space. – And the other will reach an altitude of 160 kilometers.
– Both vehicles are two-stage vehicles, meaning they carry two rocket motors each, says Kolbjørn. – The launches are planned so that both vehicles will reach apogee at the same time, even if one of them starts two minutes before the other. This is done to be able to observe how electrical currents and structures inside the aurora behave in different heights.
– Northern lights research really is research into how the sun affects the Earth, which has been known since late 1800s when the Norwegian scientist Kristian Birkeland connected the dots, says Kolbjørn. – This solar influence on Earth is referred to as space weather, and being able to predict space weather is very important for the modern society we all live in.
– Powerful space weather affect not just satellites in orbit, but also GPS, communications, power grids and compasses, says Kolbjørn. – ACES II will contribute to basic research which will also help us understand Earth’s atmosphere better.
– The principal investigator behind ACES II is Dr. Bounds from the University of Iowa, says Kolbjørn. – The launches will take place some time from the 16th to the 30th of November, 1800-2200 local time, when the science team have identified the optimal science conditions the rockets need.