NASA has successfully launched a sounding rocket that created colourful artificial clouds visible in the US skies. The NASA Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket was successfully launched yesterday, from the US space agency’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, after being delayed multiple times over the last 30 days. During the 8-minute flight, 10 canisters about the size of a soft drink can be ejected in space, 9 to 19 kilometres away from the 300-kg main payload. The canisters deployed blue-green and red vapour that formed artificial clouds visible from New York to North Carolina. During an ionosphere or aurora science mission, these clouds, or vapour tracers, allow scientists on the ground to visually track particle motions in space.
The development of the multi-canister ejection system will allow scientists to gather information over a much larger area than previously possible when deploying the tracers just from the main payload.