On Wednesday, Oct. 7 NASA successfully launched a Black Brant sounding rocket from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The rocket launched at 7:07 pm EDT and reached an altitude of 160 miles before falling back into the Atlantic Ocean. The payload was not designed to be recovered and NASA has no plans to retrieve the vehicle.
Approximately six minutes after launch, the sounding rocket deployed four sub-payloads containing mixtures of barium and strontium, creating a cloud that is blue-green and red in color.
Before new technologies are used in spacecraft they need to be thoroughly tested. Although ground tests are often acceptable, some technologies need a “test drive” before being integrated into space vehicles.
Suborbital rockets, also called sounding rockets, are valuable tools in qualifying technologies for flight and providing the test drive that is needed.
The flight’s primary objective is to characterize the reformulated Black Brant motor performance in a two-stage configuration.
“The flight also provides an opportunity to test new technologies being developed for space missions and science conducted using sounding rockets,” said Cathy Hesh, technology manager in the Sounding Rocket Program Office at Wallops.
During the flight of the two-stage Black Brant IX sounding rocket, NASA tested a section of the payload fabricated using near net shape (NNS) technology from the agency’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and three different materials through a Cubesat experiment developed by Orbital ATK of Magna, Utah.
The launch is supported through NASA’s Sounding Rocket Program at Wallops. NASA’s Heliophysics Division manages the sounding rocket program.