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Catch & Release


Fairbanks area rocket recovery begins

For Immediate Release
March 7, 2005

Poker Flat Research Range has located remnants of the Black Brant XII
rocket, CASCADES, that malfunctioned during flight on Sunday, March 6. The
rocket’s impact crater was spotted in the White Mountains by a helicopter
early this afternoon. The rocket’s payload section was identified and will
be transported to the range by snow machine tonight. A helicopter will
recover any remaining debris Tuesday, March 8.

CASCADES was designed to fly for 14 minutes, reaching an altitude of 373
vertical miles before landing on the polar ice sheet. Due to a malfunction
that occurred minutes into the flight, the rocket fell prematurely, landing
in the range’s impact zone, just north of the range. The rocket’s payload
section did not disintegrate during impact. The payload section is in
several pieces, but range staff is hopeful mechanical instruments inside may
be salvaged for future use. It will be studied further at Poker Flat
Research Range after it is recovered.

CASCADES is the rocket project of Dartmouth College scientist Kristina
Lynch. It launched at 1:31 a.m. Sunday morning. The four-stage rocket
reached an altitude of about 18 vertical miles, and flew for 5 minutes. The
first two stages appeared to function properly, but normal ignition of the
third stage did not occur, according to NASA personnel.

The rocket’s mission was to fly through the auroral curtain to learn more
about what prompts the movement and shape of the aurora. Data was
transmitted from the rocket during its short flight, and scientists will try
to utilize as much of this information as possible.

Two more rockets are slated for launch from Poker Flat Research Range this
month. The launch window will reopen Tuesday, March 8, at 7:00 p.m. Alaska
Standard Time.

Poker Flat Research Range is located 30 miles north of Fairbanks on the
Steese Highway. It is operated by the Geophysical Institute at the
University of Alaska Fairbanks, under contract to NASA.

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