Research lab says rocket completed atmosphere mission

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Mar 28, 2014 - Page 4

The National Applied Research Laboratories’ National Space Organization (NSPO) yesterday said its Sounding Rocket-9 (SR-9) was launched at 21:34pm on Wednesday, completing its mission of ionospheric measuring.

The SR-9 was launched from the Jioupeng Military Base in Pingtung County to measure the dynamics of the ionospheric layers between 80km and 300km above southern Taiwan.

National Central University’s College of Earth Sciences dean Chu Yen-hsyang (朱延祥) said Taiwan occupies a relatively low latitude near the equator, so the atmosphere is affected by what is known as the Equatorial Plasma Fountain Effect, which often causes signal interruptions for GPS or other satellite communication services.

In an effort to gain information on the mechanism that forms the ionospheric layers and drive the effect, the SR-9 carried an advanced interferometer, he said.

Senior NSPO researcher Chen Yen-sen (陳彥升) said the first section of the rocket detached six seconds after launch and the second section ignited after 12 seconds. The SR-9 reached an altitude of 82km — where it began its measuring mission — just under a minute after launch.

After reaching its highest point of 286km 270 seconds after the launch, the rocket splashed into the ocean after 520 seconds, completing its mission, he said.

In addition, the mission proved that the integration of systems was effective, as the SR-9 was equipped with Formosat-5 — a domestically made remote-observing satellite, marking the first time the nation has used a sounding-rocket as a testing platform for a remote-observing satellite.

The project was also used to promote space science education to senior-high school students, as 42 students from eight high schools were invited to witness the research over 12 weeks.

The rocket cost about NT$30 million (US$983,500) to build, Chen said.