Launching Four Spacecrafts with One Rocket
Thomas Max Roberts (Ph.D. 2015, Applied Physics) recently participated in the 2016-2017 NASA sounding rocket campaign, ISINGLASS.
On March 3, 2017, a sounding rocket successfully launched from Poker Flat research range outside Fairbanks Alaska. 120 seconds after launch, a novel measurement system developed at the Lynch Rocket Laboratory at Dartmouth College was successfully deployed. Four subpayloads were ejected in a cross pattern from the main payload, each carrying a suite of instruments to measure the plasma. This system enables multipoint measurement of auroral plasma structures on a length scale too small to be observed from the ground. Making measurements at multiple points in the plasma allows for separation of the spatial and temporal dynamics, which isn't possible with a single payload. As the payloads move away from the rocket, the measurements are made at increasing scale length. Results from the flight will be used to determine the lower bounds to spatial scales of important auroral dynamics, improving our understanding of the coupling between the magnetosphere and ionosphere.
Dr. Roberts is a postdoctoral researcher at Dartmouth College. He is responsible for interpretation of the plasma measurements and has developed methods to determine the position and attitude of the deployed spacecraft.