Press Release

NASA Flies Experimental Probes in ‘Wind Tunnel in the Sky’

By SpaceRef Editor
May 28, 2009
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NASA today successfully launched two hypersonic experiments as secondary payloads atop a NASA-built Terrier-Orion two-stage research sounding rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, Va., at 9:52 a.m. PDT.

The rocket lofted two Sub-Orbital Aerodynamic Re-entry Experiments, or SOAREX, probes more than 80 miles high. The two NASA-developed experiments will help engineers and scientists design efficient ways to return experiments to Earth from the International Space Station. Additionally the technology could be used to supplement future missions to Mars.

“Both experiments performed very well, but the Tube Deployed Re-entry Vehicle experiment performed even better than we had predicted,” said Marc Murbach, the principal investigator for the SOAREX missions, which are managed by the NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. “Because of how well the instruments worked, we expect to get very interesting and useful data.”

The primary SOAREX experiment was a Tube Deployed Re-entry Vehicle (TDRV), which for the first time tested a heat shield that unfolded to protect the probe during its decent. The TDRV is designed to improve the way payloads are stabilized and packaged on an atmospheric entry probe to better guarantee its safe return.

The second experiment was an instrumented nose cone that carried several experimental temperature, pressure and light sensors as well as a mounted camera to determine what the nose cone experiences during launch and in flight.

The 40-foot tall Terrier-Orion flew about 40 miles downrange, to a point southeast of Wallops, where it and the experiments fell into the Atlantic Ocean. Following the successful launch, SOAREX team members and support staff from Wallops will analyze the experiments’ flight data.

A series of SOAREX flights were conceived as a way to perform hypersonic flight experiments that complement ground test facilities and are often referred to as a ‘wind tunnel in the sky.’ This launch was the seventh in the series, also known as SOAREX-7.

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SpaceRef staff editor.