Fireworks start early with dual rocket launch from Wallops Island

Posted at 6:55 AM, Jun 24, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-04 12:25:52-04

Wallops Island, Va. – A two-rocket salvo from Wallops Island launched this morning after several days of delays.

Two rockets launched 15-seconds apart in support of the Daytime Dynamo experiment, which is a joint project between NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA.

Video: Russian rocket explodes seconds after liftoff

The project is designed to study a global electrical current called the dynamo, which sweeps through the ionosphere. The ionosphere stretches from about 30 to 600 miles above Earth and plays a crucial role in our day-to-day lives.

Radio waves bounce off it as they travel from sender to receiver, and communications signals from satellites travel through it as well. A disruption in the ionosphere can disrupt these signals.

The first rocket was a single-stage Black Brant V, which collected data on the neutral and charged particles it travels through.

The second rocket was a two-stage Terrier-Improved Orion. It shot out a long trail of lithium gas to track how the upper atmospheric wind varies with altitude. These winds are believed to be the drivers of the dynamo currents.