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Image Credit: NASA.

KiNet-X mission set to launch atop a Black Brant XII

A four-stage Black Brant XII sounding rocket is scheduled to blast off from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Saturday evening, May 08, 2021 at 20:02 EDT / Sunday morning, May 09 at 00:02 UTC. The rocket will carry the KiNETic-scale energy and momentum transport eXperiment, or KiNet-X to an altitude of about 349 km to 400 km over the Atlantic Ocean.

The KiNet-X mission is expected to help better understand how energy and momentum is transported between different magnetically connected points in space. Therefore the sounding rocket will release barium vapors around 9 1/2 min to 10 min after liftoff, which at first will create green and violet coloured spherical clouds. Upon exposure to the sunlight, the clouds will ionize, taking on a violet colour and soon becoming tied to Earth’s magnetic field lines, diffusing parallel to them. The un-ionized particles of the clouds will not be affected by the field lines and will diffuse much quicker than the ionized components. To observe the interactions between the ions and the magnetic field lines, NASA will utilize special cameras located in Bermuda and on an airplane.

Depending on the weather, the launch might be visible across the eastern United States and Bermuda. The faint barium vapor clouds might, if at all, only be seen at very dark places with almost to none light pollution.

Neither the rocket nor the vapors pose a threat to humans. The Black Brant XII stages will fall into the Atlantic Ocean, while the barium vapors will dissolve in the ionosphere.

The visibility map for Saturday's Black Brant XII launch. Image Credit: NASA/Christian Billie.
The visibility map for Saturday’s Black Brant XII launch. Image Credit: NASA/Christian Billie.

Sources

https://www.nasa.gov/wallops/2021/press-release/nasa-wallops-may-8-rocket-launch-visible-in-eastern-united-states

https://sites.wff.nasa.gov/mpl/w_blackbrantxii.html

https://www.nasa.gov/wallops/2021/feature/nasa-wallops-may-7-rocket-launch-exploring-energy-transport-in-space

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