Launch Madness: NASA fires 5 rockets in 5 minutes. Two days ago, 5 ATREX sounding rockets were fired from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia as part of a heliophysics study of the upper level jet stream.
• At the edge of space, 60 to 65 miles above Earth’s surface, winds achieve astonishing speeds of 200 to 300 miles per hour. This highly electromagnetic layer can damage man-made satellites and disrupt communications systems.
• Each rocket released a harmless chemical tracer, trimethyl aluminum (TMA), which forms milky, white clouds that track the winds in space. In addition, two of the rockets carried instrumented payloads to measure pressure and temperature during their short flights.
• “This area shows winds much larger than expected,” says Miguel Larsen, a space scientist at Clemson University who is the principal investigator in charge of these five rockets, known as the Anomalous Transport Rocket Experiment (ATREX). “We don’t yet know what we’re going to see, but there is definitely something unusual going on. ATREX will help us understand the big question about what is driving these fast winds.”