The SubTEC 7 mission launched on a Black Brant IX from Wallops Island Virginia, May 16, 2017. The upcoming SubTEC-9 mission will build upon the successes of past SubTEC missions to test new technologies to be used in the future. Credit: NASA/Allison Stancil

NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility is preparing to launch the Suborbital Technology Experiment Carrier-9 (SubTEC-9) mission on April 24. The mission will test various new technologies NASA’s Sounding Rockets Program Office (SRPO) developed.

The launch window for the mission is from 7:15-8:15 p.m. EDT, and the Wallops Visitor Center’s launch viewing area will open at 6:15 p.m. for launch viewing. Coverage of the mission will begin 15 minutes before launch on the Wallops YouTube channel.

The SubTEC missions have allowed the sounding rocket team to test and demonstrate new or improved technologies since the first launch in 2005. According to Josh Yacobucci, the principal investigator for the mission and sounding rocket technology manager at Wallops Flight Facility, the SubTEC-9 mission is a test flight used to test 14 new technology development experiments that enable new capabilities for the science community.

The SubTEC-9 mission will use a two-stage Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket to test a new star tracker and a faster telemetry link. The high-data-rate C-band telemetry link will transmit data from the rocket to the ground in real time, monitoring the rocket’s performance and tracking its progress. The technology will enable data speeds four times higher than currently provided. SubTEC is also testing a new smaller star tracker, which is a sensor used in attitude control systems to align to a target of interest in space.

Other experiments being tested during the SubTEC-9 mission include 3D-printed electronics circuits, ethernet-based components, a low-cost gyro, a new antenna, and a new high-density battery.

The SubTEC-9 mission is expected to reach an altitude of about 108 miles (174 kilometers) before descending by parachute into the Atlantic Ocean to be recovered. Backup launch days are scheduled for April 25 through 28. The launch may be visible in the Chesapeake Bay region.

NASA’s Sounding Rockets Program is managed at the agency’s Wallops Flight Facility, which is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. NASA’s Heliophysics Division funds the Sounding Rockets Program for the agency.

The SubTEC-9 mission’s purpose is to test new technologies, but the data collected during the mission will also be used by scientists for research purposes. NASA’s Sounding Rockets Program Office provides low-cost, high-quality access to space for scientific research through the use of sounding rockets.

Sounding rockets are single-use rockets that provide access to space for a brief period, typically 15 minutes or less, before descending back to Earth. The SRPO provides launch and flight support, as well as technical assistance to the scientific community for sounding rocket missions. The program has launched over 4,000 sounding rockets since its inception in 1959, providing researchers with access to space to conduct experiments that are not possible on the ground.

The SubTEC-9 mission is the latest in a series of sounding rocket missions that have helped NASA to develop new technologies and improve our understanding of space. NASA’s Sounding Rockets Program continues to play a vital role in advancing scientific research and technology development.

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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