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Monday, 01 December 2008 04:56
NISSE - A Student Rocket Project to Study the Upper Polar AtmosphereWritten by The NISSE Team
NISSE may evoke for some of us a short Elf type fellow with a long beard and a red knitted cap. According to an old tradition Norwegian farmers believe that if Nisse lives in their barns, they will be blessed. Therefore around Christmas when the Nisses are active, they prepare food for them and, believe it or not – it's always eaten up by the next morning!
Some other readers may be familiar with the name NISSE because of a Norwegian scientific satellite project, which was supposed to be launched in 1998. Set up to study the energy exchange in the upper layers of the atmosphere, the NISSE project involved all space physics groups in Norway at that time. Unfortunately the rocket taking NISSE to its orbit has never been launched.
Consequently, we cannot learn a lesson from that, but we are going to live up to NISSE's great name with our own investigation: the Nordic Ionospheric Sounding rocket Seeding Experiment.
Photo credit: SNSB
It all started with the substorm school in Iceland in November 2007: Three enthusiastic space physics students trying to hunt for auroras in the middle of nowhere at freezing minus degrees. A few months later the NISSE team came into being with 4 young students struggling with the tricky tasks of a space engineer.
After NISSE was chosen to participate in the REXUS student rocket program, a joint project of the European Space Agency ESA, the Swedish National Space Board SNSB and the German Space Agency DLR, the team was invited to a workshop at the beginning of March 2008 at the European Space Technology and Research Centre (ESTEC) in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. We presented our proposal to a panel of experts from ESA, DLR and Esrange, which is a rocket range in Northern Sweden where the REXUS rockets are launched. That was the first ordeal. We realized that our knowledge of the practical part of space technics was still in its fledgling stages... But as we all know: Rohkea rokan syö (Fortune favours the brave).
Shortly after, good news followed: NISSE was selected to the next phase and we were invited to a training week in the following month, April 2008, at the Esrange Space Centre close to the Kiruna, Northern Sweden. The SNSB, DLR as well as ESA were present in the presentation sessions and in the evaluation panel of each of the 8 student teams. After presenting the preliminary design review, the board showed green light for NISSE to fly on a REXUS sounding rocket scheduled to be launched from Esrange next March, 2009.
A few weeks later another great news reached us: NISSE had been given permission to have a total payload of 40 kg on a REXUS 6 sounding rocket, shared with another experiment, AGADE by a German student team. The joy was immense, but we all knew that there was still a long way to go before we could let the corks pop.
NISSE in short
In the NISSE experiment about 11 kg water will be released into the atmosphere at the REXUS 6 rocket’s apogee altitude of about 95 km. The tri-static EISCAT UHF incoherent scatter radar system located in Northern Fennoscandia, in Tromsø, Norway, Kiruna, Sweden, and Sodankylä, Finland, will be used for the detection and observation of the impact of the released water on the upper atmosphere/ionosphere.
The NISSE team
Vidar Hølland, University of Bergen, Norway
Gard Mellemstrand, University of Bergen, Norway
Timo Pitkänen, University of Oulu, Finland
Gisela Baumann, Finnish Meteorological Instititute, Finland
Is 11 kg too small an amount of water? Are we able to observe any effect? Will the experiment succeed? Stay tuned about the information and progress of the NISSE experiment by following our blogging at the IPY website! The project status will be updated semi-regularly until the project is over. Visit also our NISSE homepage!
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