Photo from Twitter of Black Brant in Pittsgrove, NJ

NASA’s last launch attempt for mission KiNET-X

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After seven unsuccessful launches, the rocket finally got the clear to launch. From the Wallops Flight Facility, the Black Brant XII carrying the KiNET-X mission successfully launched from the Wallops Flight Facility on Sunday, May 16, at 8:36 p.m. Eastern Time (ET)

Launch attempt no.1

On the Eastern Shore of Virginia, NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility was set to launch a four-stage Black Brant XII rocket Saturday, May 8, at 8:02 p.m. ET. The launch clock was put on hold at T-15 minutes to wait for better weather conditions. Due to upper-level winds not being within the required limits for a safe launch NASA scrubbed and rescheduled it to May 9.

Launch attempt no.2

May 9. NASA Wallops announced the launch window would open at 8:03 p.m. The launch clock was put on hold at T-15 minutes. Announcing on Twitter “Black Brant XII sounding rocket carrying the KiNET-X payload has been postponed,” to Monday, May 10, at 8:04 p.m “due to upper due to upper-level winds.”

Launch attempt no.3

May 10. The clock was put on hold at T-15 minutes until launch as to wait, yet again, for better weather conditions. Adding the “window will remain open until 8:44 p.m. EDT.” Black Brant XII sounding rocket was soon scrubbed and postponed to Tuesday, May 11, at 8:05 p.m. 

Launch attempt no.4

May 11. NASA Wallops Twitter said they plan on holding at T-15 minutes for weather conditions and had pushed the launch time from 8:03 p.m to 8:36 p.m. While holding the launch clock at T-3 minutes to wait for confirmation from the Principal Investigator in Bermuda, it was then scrubbed once more. Saying on Twitter, the next opportunity will be “no earlier than May 12, at 8:06 p.m. EDT,” adding “backup days run through May 16.”

Launch attempt no.5

May 12. Around noon Eastern Time the rocket launch window was extended to 7:59 pm through 8:53 pm. But NASA soon announced the launch “has been postponed to provide time for inspection of the rocket after the vehicle came in contact with a launcher support during today’s preparations.” The next opportunity was at 8:02 p.m on Friday, May 14.

Launch attempt no.6

On May 13, another tweet was posted stating the prior date “is now scheduled for no earlier than Saturday, May 15, with the window opening at 8:10 p.m.” Elaborating that time in between was for the team to continue their inspection on the rocket and launcher after the vehicle came in contact with a launcher support during launch preparations.”

Launch attempt no.7

May 15. The KiNET-X sounding rocket was set to launch at 8:03 p.m. ET. The clock was put on holding at T-10 minutes for Principal Investigator in Bermuda to confirm a safe launch. Unfortunately, cloud coverage over Bermuda scrubbed NASA’s seventh attempt. It was then rescheduled to May 16.

Rocket science rundown

Mission KiNET-X, or Kinetic-scale Energy and momentum Transport eXperiment, is designed to study a primary problem in space plasmas, namely, how are energy and momentum transported between different regions of space that are magnetically connected?

The KiNET-X experiment consists of a single rocket launch carrying seven separable payloads. Diagnostic instrumentation is carried on the main payload and four small sub payloads, nicknamed “Bobs.” These four “Bobs” — measuring the size of two-liter soda bottles — make measurements of the space environment through which the barium-vapor-induced disturbance travels. Rest assured the barium vapor is not harmful to the environment or public health.

This map shows when the rocket may be visible after launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. Two vapor clouds will form north of Bermuda about 9 minutes and 30 seconds after launch as part of the mission and may also be visible from eastern United States and Bermuda.
Image courtesy of NASA/Christian Billie

Barium vapor will be released approximately 9 minutes and 30 seconds to around 10 minutes after launch at about 217-249 miles (349-400 kilometers) altitude over the Atlantic Ocean and 540-560 miles (869-901 kilometers) downrange from Wallops and just north of Bermuda. Once exposed to sunlight the vapor clouds quickly ionize and take on a violet color, the spherical clouds are a mixture of green and violet. This phase only lasts for 30 seconds when the un-ionized component of the cloud diffuses away. It is not likely for one to see this with the naked eye because the motion of the neutral portion of the clouds is not constrained by the magnetic field lines, they spread out more quickly and the fact the human eye doesn’t see violet colors very well in darkness.

Logan Kent

Logan is an ambitious, yet head-strong, "underdog." He strives to support the overlooked and bring attention to both big and small happenings in the world through journalism.

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