WALLOPS ISLAND, Va., Aug. 25, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- NASA will test a new sub-payload deployment method for suborbital rocket missions with the launch of a Black Brant IX sounding rocket between 5 and 6 a.m., Aug. 28, from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The backup launch days are Aug. 29 and Sept. 2 through 8.
The sub-payload deployment method being tested on this flight 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 sounding rocket.
By burning the metals rapidly, they vaporize to form clouds or trails that are 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.
The byproducts from burning these metals do not pose a risk to health or the environment given their release in space. The amount of barium, strontium and lithium used in the test is much smaller than that used in a typical municipal 4th of July fireworks display, for example. The colors in these displays are the result of rapidly burning small amounts of these earth metals. For instance, barium generally produces a blue-green cloud while strontium and lithium produce blue and red.
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, West Virginia; and Greensboro, North Carolina.
The payload is expected to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean about 208 miles from Wallops Island and will not be recovered.
The NASA Visitor Center at Wallops will open at 4 a.m. for viewing the launch.
Live coverage of the launch is available via Ustream beginning at 4 a.m. on launch day at:
Launch status can be followed on launch day on Twitter at:
and Facebook at:
Launch status also is available on the Wallops launch status line at 757-824-2050.
Smartphone users can download the "What's Up at Wallops" app, which contains information on the launch as well as a compass showing the precise direction for launch viewing. The app is available for download to both Android and iOS users.
A map showing from where the rocket may be seen is available at:
Additional information on using vapor tracers in space research is available at: