NASA’s Sounding Rockets Program Office successfully launched a U.S. Navy Black Brant IX Sounding Rocket carrying the Focusing Optics X-ray Solar Imager or FOXSI Dec. 11 out of White Sands Missile Range’s Launch Complex 36, bringing back images of the sun’s solar flare activity.
Chuck Brodell, vehicle manager with NASA’s Sounding Rockets Program Office, said the FOXSI provided at least 5 minutes worth of new images of the sun at the highest quality.
He said the FOXSI telescope looks for active and inactive conditions in the sun, also known as solar flares.
“We are trying to understand how the sun functions and the effects of solar activities,” Brodell said. The plan is to eventually attach the FOXSI onto satellites.
Brodell said solar flares have been known to have an effect on the aurora borealis or northern lights and are also powerful enough to knock out space communications.
An NPR report dated Sept. 13, 2014 said that earlier in the week a powerful solar flare had sparked a light show from the aurora borealis that dazzled viewers in the upper Northern Hemisphere.
In that same report, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center said that while Earth would feel the effects of the large coronal mass ejection through that weekend, it wouldn’t bring major communications or electrical problems.
Brodell said the main telescope on the FOXSI has seven smaller telescopes that look at the sun’s activity. Brodell said they are able to point the telescope to an exact point.
According to the NASA homepage, FOXSI is a solar hard x-ray (HXR) observer with the goal of demonstrating the use of direct focusing optics for solar HXR observing.
The Navy Black Brant IX is a two stage sounding rocket with a Terrier first stage and Black Brant second stage. The Black Brant IX can reach altitudes of about 600 km. Payloads weighing from 400 to 1200 pounds can be flown.
Also, at press time on Dec. 17, NASA’s Sounding Rockets Program Office was scheduled to launch two rockets out of White Sands Missile Range’s Launch Complex 36.
The first is the Taurion Sounding Rocket. The Taurion is a new vehicle under development for the mission that is a mixture of Taurus and Orion hardware specifically designed to acquire certain flight conditions. The activity is a partnership between SRPO, NASA Engineering Safety Center, ATK and the Navy suborbital launch group.
According to an information paper, the concept is to use the high weight and drag of the Taurus case to reduce the performance of the Orion motor installed inside the larger case to achieve the desired flight conditions. NESC’s goal is to collect flight data in the form of pressure measurements to be used for validation of state-of-the-art computational fluid dynamics simulations.
The second is the Improved Sounding Rocket. According to an information paper, C-Band Telemetry Experiment or CTREX is a C Band telemetry experiment for telemetry tracker evaluation. The experiment uses two transmitters, S-Band and C-Band, simultaneously broadcasting a PRN code. On board instrumentation will provide 6 DOF trajectory information for determination of link margin based on measured antenna patterns and power output. CTREX provides a risk reduction flight for new telemetry components: C-Band transmitter, RF connectors, and cabling.