NASA Funds Universities’ New Experiments for Suborbital Flights

MISSION PLANNERNASA Funds Universities’ New Experiments for Suborbital FlightsAwards to Reinvigorate Agency’s Sounding Rocket Science Program

WASHINGTON, DC (rushprnews) May 24,2007 – NASA has selected four universities to conduct suborbital scientific research that is a new step in reinvigorating the agency’s sounding rocket science program.

 Reflected in the water of the Banana River at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., Space Shuttle Atlantis sits on Launch Pad 39A. Photo Credit: NASA/Ken ThornsleyManaged out of NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va., the sounding rocket program offers a low-cost test bed for new scientific studies and techniques, scientific instrumentation and spacecraft technology. Launches take place world-wide, including from Wallops, the White Sands Missile Range, N.M., and Poker Flat Research Range, Alaska.

“NASA’s sounding rocket program also is one of the most cost effective ways to train future orbital science mission team members and principle investigators, giving them hands-on space flight experience,” said Alan Stern, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, Washington. “I hope this effort will be a catalyst for more suborbital work conducted for space science and Earth science research.”

NASA’s Science Mission Directorate funded approximately $4.2 million in grants. Two are university-led science investigations from proposals selected by the directorate’s heliophysics division, and the directorate’s astrophysics division selected two others. These four payloads supplement the existing astrophysics and heliophysics rocket programs.

Proposals, evaluated by a NASA scientific panel and external reviewers, were selected based on scientific and technical merits, costs and relevance to NASA programs. Grants will be funded from between two to five years with research launches planned to occur between 2008 and 2010.

The newly selected university payloads are:

University of Wisconsin, Madison/Kenneth Nordsieck, Principle Investigator (PI)
“Exploring New Astrophysical Diagnostics with the Far-Ultraviolet SpectroPolarimeter.” The payload will make astronomical polarization measurements in the far ultraviolet and explore new diagnostics of the geometry and magnetic fields in stellar envelopes and interstellar medium.

Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H./Kristina Lynch (PI). Partnering universities: University of Alaska, Fairbanks; University of New Hampshire, Durham; Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.
“The Changing Aurora: in Situ and Camera Analysis of Dynamic Electron Precipitation Structures.” The payload will perform multi camera investigations of substorm auroras and their variations.

University of Colorado, Boulder/James Green (PI)
“Imaging and Spectroscopy in the Far Ultraviolet.” The payload will perform investigations of the ratio of molecular hydrogen to carbon monoxide found in gas clouds of other galaxies to accurately determine the masses of those galaxies.

University of Southern California, Los Angeles/Darrell Judge (PI)
“A New Advanced Extreme Ultraviolet Optics Free Spectrometer.” The payload will test a new photoelectron focusing system that may be used for future solar observations for calibration for space research.

NASA sounding rockets provide brief flights into space for payloads that include atmospheric probes, astronomy telescopes, detectors and other technology and science investigations. Users include corporations, universities and a host of government agencies and other institutions.

Numerous high profile NASA satellite missions have been enabled or enhanced by technology and techniques developed using sounding rockets. Many NASA instrument and mission principal investigators received their start in space experimentation participating in sounding rocket missions.

For more information on NASA’s science programs, visit:

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