NASA launches sounding rocket from Australia

A Black Brant XI sounding rocket launched the X-ray Quantum Calorimeter experiment for NASA from the Arnhem Space Center in Australia. Credit: NASA

A Black Brant IX sounding rocket launched the X-ray Quantum Calorimeter experiment for NASA from the Arnhem Space Center in Australia. Credit: NASA

Earlier this week, the first of three science missions launching atop a NASA sounding rocket left Earth from the Arnhem Space Center in the Northern Territory of Australia.

The launch atop a Black Brant IX suborbital rocket took place at 10:29 a.m. EDT (14:29 UTC) June 26, 2022. It was Australia’s first commercial launch as well as NASA’s first launch from a commercial launch facility outside of the United States.

There are two remaining science mission launches left in this series; the next is scheduled to occur from the facility at 6:54 a.m. EDT (10:54 UTC) July 4.

The first launch of the series carried the X-ray Quantum Calorimeter, XQC, a science experiment provided by the University of Wisconsin. It flew to an altitude of 203 miles (237 kilometers) before landing by parachute southwest of the launch site.

The science instrument collection of data was deemed a success by experts close to the launch, and NASA said the team will recover the science instrument itself and rocket motors for further analysis.

X-ray space telescopes capture images uniquely; they are able to map the sky by observing a patch of light. The XQC is designed to have 50 times better energy resolution than before, according to NASA.

Scientists have now mapped the X-ray sky in ever-finer detail with the help of other NASA X-ray missions, the agency said. Still, there are several bright patches of unknown sources.

The next flight’s objective will be to target an area of X-ray light partially visible from the Northern Hemisphere.

“It covers a big part of the galaxy, but we needed to be in the Southern Hemisphere to see that of the sky,” University of Wisconsin, Madison astronomer Dan McCammon said in a NASA news release. “We’ve been waiting a long time for this expedition to Australia.”

NASA said scientists and astronomers believe X-ray patches come from diffuse, a hot gas heated by supernovae, a brilliant eruption of dying stars.

There are still bright patches of unknown origin these three launch missions seek to explain and or identify, the agency said.

Video courtesy of Equatorial Launch Australia

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