VortEx ready to launch from Andøya


How do winds and energy from the lower atmosphere affect the upper atmosphere and space weather? Understanding and forecasting space weather is important to protect satellites and other infrastructure in orbit, whose functions may be disturbed or disrupted by space weather.

In the atmosphere, energy from the lower atmosphere travels up as much as 100 kilometers. These waves of energy create turbulence, vortices and instability in the upper atmosphere, and may affect the space weather around the Earth.

Radar, sounding rockets and optical instruments

– The Vorticity Experiment (VortEx) will use radar, sounding rockets and optical instruments to map an area in the mesosphere of about 100 by 200 kilometers in size, from 80 to 140 kilometers altitude, says Ida-Elise Øverås, Director Sounding Rockets & Engineering Services at Andøya Space.

By sampling and analyzing this area, the researchers seeks to understand how this region in the mesosphere affects the upper atmosphere through mixing processes with the lower atmosphere.

Four sounding rockets

– Four sounding rockets will be launched from Andøya Space for VortEx. These four sounding rockets will take off in pairs, says Øverås.

In each pair, one rocket will contain 16 individual measurements of wind, while the other will perform a continuous measurement of wind and temperature.

– One of the sounding rockets in each pair will also release trimethylaluminum to visualize turbulence and vortices in the air. This will be filmed from three different sites, here at Andøya, in Alta and near Bodø, and by our research plane, says Øverås.

The sounding rockets in VortEx have a launch window from the 17th of March to the 26th of March 2023.

Principal Investigator for VortEx is Dr. Gerald Lehmacher at Clemson University in South Carolina in the US. VortEx is part of the Grand Challenge Initiative Mesosphere and Lower Thermosphere.