Aurora Studied for Drag in Norway

Principal investigator Dr. Marc Lessard from University of New Hampshire explains the reason for launching a Black Brant XII from Andoya Rocket Range near Andenes, Norway in December 2010. RENU is a NASA funded mission, and the payload was built at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility, in Accomack County, Va., USA to study the aurora.

The rocket carried instruments about 200 miles (320 kilometers) into the atmosphere to observe the aurora and the associated flow of heat, particles, and electromagnetic energy. The rocket landed in the ocean about 900 miles (1450 km) from the launch site.

The goal of RENU was to measure the flow of particles and heat both into and out of Earth’s upper atmosphere near the North Pole during an auroral event. The solar wind stirs up Earth’s magnetic field and creates electrical currents in the ionosphere.

Such disturbances can also heat the atoms of the thermosphere and other atmospheric layers, expanding them and creating extra drag on satellites and spacecraft, shortening their lifespan.


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