On Tuesday morning, at the Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops, Virginia, NASA launched the Multiple User Suborbital Instrument Carrier, or MUSIC payload, out into the skies aboard a Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket. The launch had been postponed numerous times since December because of weather-related delays so it was, it can be presumed, 🎶 music 🎶 to NASA’s ears to hear there was finally a successful flight.
The mission was specifically designed to help study the physics of the ionosphere and measure space weather activity — all in just a short 17-minute flight.
MUSIC is basically a suborbital payload (something a rocket carries that isn’t connected to its propulsion) which carried several different kinds of engineering projects and experiments designed by students at West Virginia University, via NASA’s Undergraduate Student Instrument Project. The university participated in three similar flights in 2014, putting other experimental payloads on sounding rockets and balloons in preparation for the research objectives for this upcoming mission.
“The mission is allowing engineers at Wallops that have not had experience with sounding rockets to gain a familiarity with these suborbital missions,” said Carsell Milliner, the mission manager for MUSIC, in a November news release. “The work being done will result in a standard payload carrier with predefined mechanical, telemetry, power and attitude control capabilities.”
MUSIC wasn’t the only thing that was launched on Tuesday. The sounding rocket also took the Diminutive Assembly for Nanosatellite deploYables (DANY) up for a test flight. DANY is a mechanism being developed to help unlatch stowed devices from a small satellite, like a Cubesat. It could be a valuable tool later on for deploying devices like solar panels into orbit.
NASA has another sounding rocket launch set for next Monday.