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Catch & Release

07.14.04

Rocket launch secures photos for firefighting efforts

Staff from Poker Flat Research Range helped secure crucial imagery of
wildfires raging through Alaska, including those in their own backyard.

Altair, an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) equipped with extensive imaging
capabilities, provided real-time information on fire locations, fire
movement, and previously unidentified hot spots on a mission flown July 9.
Poker Flat Research Range staff initiated this effort and provided airspace
planning and mission support for the flight.

The latest images of the Boundary Fire are assisting fire personnel as they
tackle flames near Poker Flat Research Range, located 30 miles north of
Fairbanks on the Steese Highway. The Boundary Fire charred portions of the
5,132-acre range late last month in three separate waves of fire, causing
minor damage.

Range staff were prepared to support Altair before it even flew to Alaska.
The original plan for the UAV was to monitor fishing activities in the
Bering Sea and the North Pacific Ocean this summer. Range personnel have
helped the United States Coast Guard prepare for and coordinate these
missions.

Poker Flat Research Range, New Mexico State University, and the University
of Hawaii have entered into a four-year contract, sponsored by the United
States Air Force, to develop and coordinate future UAV operations within
Alaska, Hawaii, and the western United States that focus on civil or
scientific applications.

The Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks owns and
operates Poker Flat Research Range. It is the only non-federal,
university-owned range in the world. To date, more than 1,800 meteorological
rockets and about 300 major high-altitude sounding rocket experiments have
been launched from the range.

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