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NASA Prototype Rocket Makes Third Flight

Photonics.com
May 2017
BOULDER, Colo., May 18, 2017 — A sounding rocket originally developed as a prototype for NASA's next generation of space-based solar spectrographs has made its third flight from White Sands, N.M.

The Rapid Acquisition Imaging Spectrograph Experiment (RAISE), designed and built by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), carried a UV imaging spectrograph targeting an active region of the sun to better understand the dynamics that cause solar eruptions. The brief flight, offering five minutes of observations, coordinated with three orbiting satellites — the Solar Dynamics Observatory, the Hinode Solar Observatory and the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph — to gather multiple data perspectives of the same solar activity.

"Using sounding rockets to get out of Earth's atmosphere provides us with fantastic data at a relatively low cost," said Don Hassler, RAISE principal investigator at SwRI's space science and engineering division. "In particular, we expect this flight to provide some of the highest cadence spectral observations of the sun at these wavelengths ever taken."

Scientific research objectives of the flight were to study the small-scale dynamics of coronal loops, the nature of high-frequency waves in the solar atmosphere and the nature of transient brightenings in the solar network. RAISE previously flew twice. During a November 2014 flight, the spectrograph gathered 1500 images of the sun over the five-minute mission, focusing on the changes occurring near active regions. Its maiden launch in August 2010 generated observations of the dynamics and heating of the solar chromosphere and corona.

"RAISE is pushing the limits of high-cadence observations. Pushing these limits is challenging, but this is exactly what the NASA sounding rocket program is for," Hassler said.

Despite brief flight times, sounding rocket missions play a vital role in NASA’s mission of advancing new technologies and instrumentation while qualifying them for space in a low-cost, rapid turnaround environment.

GLOSSARY
spectrograph
An optical instrument for forming the spectrum of a light source and recording it on a film. The dispersing medium may be a prism or a diffraction grating. A concave grating requires no other means to form a sharp image of the slit on the film, but a plane grating or a prism requires auxiliary lenses or concave mirrors to act as image-forming means in addition to the dispersing element. Refracting prisms can be used only in parallel light, so a collimating lens is required before the prism and...
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