NASA will be launching 2 missiles to test Mars parachute and the track ‘nanoflares’

The sounding rocket carrying the first flight of FOXSI, an instrument for collecting X-ray data about the sun, for the start in 2012.


NASA will be launching two short rocket missions tomorrow (Sept. 7): A test of a parachute that can be used to help land the next rover on Mars; the other will be the measurement of small explosions on the sun called “nanoflares.”

The rocket launches will occur separately in Virginia and New Mexico. Only the parachute test is available to view online, with coverage starting at 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT) on the Ustream page for NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. Sounding rockets fly for about half an hour and never reach a high enough altitude for a stable orbit of the Earth.

This launch will be the third test of the Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment (ASPIRE), which is designed for NASA’s next Red Planet rover mission, called Mars 2020. The sounding rocket, a 58-metre-high Terrier-Black Brant IX, will the parachute to a height of 32 miles (50 km). The device will automatically deploy if it falls back to the Earth with a speed faster than that of sound. [NASA Sounding Rocket Lights of the Sky: Photos]

ASPIRE launch window opens at 9:30 a.m. EDT (1330 GMT) and will stretch to 12:30 pm EDT (1730 GMT). If the rocket can not get out in that window there are additional options to September. 15.

More Of

  • Ustream page for NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility

  • Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment

  • NASA Sounding Rocket Lights of the Sky: Photos

  • Focus Optics X-Ray Solar Imager (FOXSI)

The parachute must travel about 40 km away from the Wallops Island launch site in Virginia and the country in the Atlantic Ocean. Scientists will fish from the ocean to the study of the parachute, along with photos captured by a camera hidden aboard the rocket.

Tomorrow the second sounding rocket launch will take off from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, and will also be on the third flight of the technology, called Focus Optics X-Ray Solar Imager (FOXSI).

FOXSI reaches a height of 190 miles (300 km), where the collection of an X-ray of data about the sun. That kind of light can help tell scientists what’s happening to make the sun into the outer atmosphere, so incredibly hot — millions of degrees in Fahrenheit or Celsius. It will also let scientists study nanoflares — tiny, but extremely powerful bursts of energy from the sun that they suspect is responsible for all that heat.

This flight, FOXSI a third party, will collect data across a wider range of the X-rays than the previous flights in 2012 and 2014, which means that scientists be more precise meter temperatures on the sun.

The launch window will open at 11:15 a.m. local time (1:15 pm EDT; 1715 GMT), but FOXSI flight not online.

Editor’s note: This story was corrected to clarify how sounding rockets fly.

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