MICA rocket launch, part 6…

Hi all, we are now on day 6 of the launch window that opened on Monday night. It’s been a pretty long week, the days all seem to blend together and everything is even more skewed because we’re on a semi-night schedule, the window is open from 8pm to 2am.

Here’s a run down of the week:

  • Launch Window Day #1 — Mon 2/13 8pm-2am– The first few hours of the window were used for final preparations and checks on the payload by the Wallops crew down at Poker Flat.  We had some breaks in the clouds, but the aurora was not strong enough or in the right place to consider launching. It’s good for us though, because we were better able to arrange our equipment here at Fort Yukon.
  • Launch Window Day #2 — Tues 2/14 8pm-2:30am — So, the way the launch works is prior to the start of the window we count down from T-2 hours to T-10 minutes, “T-” means time to launch. Then we hold at T-10 minutes until we get some promising aurora, when we advance the countdown to T-2 minutes. Then we hold there until we get ideal conditions and decide to launch. Tuesday night we dropped the count down several times and had very good aurora, but it did not organize itself into the type of arcs in the right place, that we are trying to study.  The aurora was absolutely amazing. It was my first time ever really seeing it and it was absolutely awesome in the most basic sense of the word. We got quite a show here at Fort Yukon and standing outside it seemed like I couldn’t turn around fast enough to see all of the amazing activity. It was absolutely breathtaking. I wish everyone the opportunity to see it, it’s right up there with natural wonders like the Grand Canyon; I know these videos don’t quite capture the awe of the aurora that you get in person, but here are a few time-lapse videos from that night (aurora 1, aurora 2, aurora 3). This night we came very, very close to launching, getting as low as 36 seconds from liftoff before holding the count.  The auroral activity was actually much greater than anyone here or elsewhere would have predicted (this article is a great example of bad pop-science writing).  And the skies were clear at most of our sites for more than half of the launch window.  Extended the window to 2:30 am in hopes of getting the aurora to reorganize into arcs, but it never did.
  • Launch Window Day #3 — Wed 2/15 8pm-1:30am — It was a quiet night for two reasons: there was very little aurora and there was poor visibility at our down range sites (aka where I am). Just about the exact opposite of the previous night with hours of aurora and nearly launching.  Scrubbed at 1:30 am due to clouds at down range sites and low geomagnetic activity.  A videographer from the Discovery Channel filmed the launch pad, inside the blockhouse, the vertical checks inside the telemetry building, and the Science Operations Center, for a future documentary. I was pretty bummed about not being around for that…I guess I missed my 15 minutes.
  • Launch Window Day #4 — Thurs 2/16 8pm-2am — Clear skies up north for the entire window was very encouraging.  An arc formed in the far north early in the window and slowly moved south and then intensified.  We dropped the count to 2 minutes and held there for just over an hour as we watched the arc develop some structure briefly and then become more diffuse.  It never materialized into anything useful.
  • Launch Window Day #5 — Fri 2/17 8pm-2am — The skies were clear for most of the night up north, but we didn’t see much action until about half way through the window. An arc formed in the far north early in the window and slowly moved south and then intensified.  We dropped the count to 2 minutes and held, the results were very similar to the previous night.  Still no launch.


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7 Responses to MICA rocket launch, part 6…

  1. Congratulations on the launch! Hope you got some good data…
    I was very interested to read your detailed postings on the payload, it’s often hard to find news of these suborbital experiments. Do you happen to know offhand the weights of the main and aft payloads?

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