NASA launch to test new deployment system

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NASA plans to launch a rocket on Thursday from the Wallops Flight Facility to test a new deployment system.

The launch of the Black Brant IX sounding rocket between 5 and 6 a.m. is designed to try out a sub-payload deployment method for suborbital missions. (The backup launch days are Aug. 29 and Sept. 2 through 8.)

The method being tested uses small rocket motors like those used in model rockets to eject the sub-payloads from the main payload.

During the demonstration two sub-payloads with mixtures of mainly barium, and small amounts of the natural earth metals lithium and strontium, and two sub-payloads with only lithium will be deployed from the rocket.

By burning the metals rapidly, they vaporize to form clouds or trails. They will be used as tracers that will help to measure the wind in the transition region between the Earth's atmosphere and space. The vapor releases occur at approximately 9 to 10 minutes after vehicle lift-off between 124 and 217 miles above the Earth.

NASA said the byproducts from burning these metals do not pose a risk to health or the environment.

The vaporized clouds may be seen by residents in the Northeastern and mid-Atlantic regions of the United States from Maine to the North/South Carolina border and west to Pittsburgh; Clarksburg, W.Va.; and Greensboro, N.C.

The payload is expected to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean about 208 miles from Wallops Island and will not be recovered.


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