RockSat-X 2016

WALLOPS ISLAND – The RockSat-X program continued in its efforts to inspire the next generation of rocket scientists by launching a two-stage Terrier Mk12 — Improved Malemute from the Wallops Range August 18. This program provides expanded flight opportunities beyond the RockOn! university-level sounding rocket experiment series. This particular mission provided experimenters from eight universities and colleges the opportunity to fly a payload of their choosing and be exposed to the space environment.

Pre-mission planning and testing for this mission went very smoothly thanks to experienced crews and careful coordination amongst many different agencies. With pre-mission testing successfully completed, the team was able to open the launch window on the originally planned date. During the count, two radars were experiencing issues, but thanks to the efforts of the RRS operations crew, all radars were healthy prior to T-0. For this mission, there was a requirement to track both the payload and the spent motor after payload separation. The repairs completed by the operations team allowed the successful track of both targets. Although not related directly to the mission, this launch provided a target of opportunity for an engineering project currently approaching completion. This system receives data from tracking sources and provides that data to the Range safety officers. It is currently in the middle of its parallel operations period where the new system operates in concert with the system to be replaced. This launch represented the second of three launches required to prove out the system.

Although the mission was launched successfully and data was received from the payload, the team was not able to recover the payload. The recovery vessel searched for roughly three hours in the last known location, but the payload was never spotted. The ultimate fate of the payload is unknown, but the team was still able to gather a good amount of data from the vehicle prior to impact. With the exception of the recovery effort, this was a very successful mission which provided valuable experience to the upcoming leaders in the field of space flight