36.301 and 30.306 UE PFAFF/NASA GSFC
Neutral Jets Associated with Auroral Arcs

  • Mission
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At high latitudes, magnetospheric energy and momentum have profound effects on the ionosphere and upper atmosphere below. Energetic electrons travel along magnetic field lines and interact with the neutral gases creating regions of enhanced thermal plasma. Magnetospheric DC electric fields map along the magnetic field lines and set the ionosphere in motion via E x B drifts, the plasma drifts, in turn, set the neutral gases in motion via collisions between the ion and neutral gases.

The main objective of this investigation is to understand the height dependent coupling processes that create localized neutral “jets” in the upper atmosphere associated with the aurora, their driving conditions, and their associated heating and neutral structuring.

The auroral neutral jets experiment consists of two rockets launched simultaneously with different apogees, approximately 350 km and 175 km. Each rocket was instrumented with plasma and neutral gas detectors as well as electric and magnetic field detectors. The high and low platforms are designed to determine the jet characteristics simultaneously at different altitudes and show how the driving electric field and particle input vary within the 150 to 300 km range. Wind data will be gathered with in situ measurements to extend the jet profile to 350 km. The experiment was carried out in conjunction with simultaneous measurements by the imaging Fabry-Perot system which enabled a launch in the presence of a well defined auroral neutral jet.

The Principal Investigator is Dr. Robert Pfaff/NASA GSFC.

Drawing of a Terrier-Black Brant sounding rocket

The Black Brant 9 is a two stage sounding rocket with a Terrier first stage and Black Brant second stage. The Black Brant 9 can reach altitudes of about 600 km. Payloads weighing from 400 to 1200 pounds can be flown.

Additional sounding rocket vehicles

Google Earth Map showing White Sands Missile Range.

The JETS payloads were launched from Poker Flat Research Range, Alaska on March 1, 2017.