ATREX

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The much anticipated Anomalous Transport Experiment, more commonly known as ATREX, launched from Wallops Flight Facility March 27, 2012, just a few seconds before 5 a.m. The mission was designed to study winds at extremely high elevations – reaching the edge of space – to determine the effects on communication satellites. The five sounding rockets were fired 80 seconds apart, deploying trimethylaluminum (TMA) into the high-altitude jet stream. Winds at that altitude, only discovered in the past 10 years, have speeds of 225 to 335 miles per hour and are still largely misunderstood.

ATREX stirred quite a bit of excitement for Range and Mission Management Office (RMMO) personnel. For instance, support for one sounding rocket is complex; the additional launch of 4 vehicles during a five-minute timeframe presents unique challenges. To combat possible problems, RMMO personnel participated in two Green Card exercises March 5 and March 9. These exercises created an environment to enable leadership to test launch processes when situations were anomalous.

The ATREX launches provided RMMO engineers and technicians the challenge of configuring nine separate telemetry (TM) assets, whether it was a fixed or mobile asset, creating the most complex TM configuration in the history of Wallops!

This mission also caused a unique configuration of the Range’s Radar and optical assets.

Each functional group had to acquire track and subsequently peel off to capture the next rocket in the series. All Radar and optical technicians were able to successfully acquire each vehicle. RMMO personnel also provided support with project management, optical systems, meteorological, command and control, radio frequency monitoring, sea and surface surveillance, and Range control.

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