Rocket research range may receive more NASA funding

Posted: Tuesday, January 15, 2008

FAIRBANKS - With NASA getting more money for a specialized rocket program, the Poker Flat Research Range may be getting busier in the future.

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In the past, rockets have launched at Poker Flat every other year, but officials said starting next year, the plan is to launch rockets from Fairbanks every winter.

The sounding rockets they study are used to collect data in the Earth's upper atmosphere and are one of the only ways to get a close view of the aurora borealis.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute, which operates the range, has worked closely with NASA on rocket research projects since 1979. Recent federal budget constraints had some officials worried that the rockets would be grounded.

But just last year, NASA's Space Mission Directorate expressed a strong interest in the type of research only sounding rockets can accomplish.

"For one, we do good research. And the other is it's good experience for the scientists on how to put instruments into space and how to build rockets," said John Hickman, NASA's operations manager for the sounding rocket program.

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