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The small suborbital rockets form the core of Nasa’s Anomalous Transport Rocket
Experiment(ATREX), which is scheduled to blast off from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on March 14, according to a mission profile. The mission will gather information about the high-altitude jet stream, which whistles along 60 to 65 miles (97 to 105 kilometers) above our planet’s surface. If all goes as planned, the five ATREX sounding rockets will launch within 320 seconds, releasing chemical tracers into the high-altitude jet stream. The tracers will then form milky white clouds, allowing scientists to track the atmospheric region’s winds, which can exceed 300 mph (483 kph). Earth’s high-altitude jet stream blows higher up than the jet stream commonly referred to in weather forecasts. The super-fast winds in this upper jet stream facilitate rapid transport from the mid latitudes to our planet’s polar regions. The high-altitude jet stream is located in the same atmospheric region where some strong electrical currents occur. According to researchers this part of the ionosphere therefore has a lot of electrical turbulence, which can disrupt satellite and radio communications. While all five rockets will release chemical tracers at the edge of space, two of them will also carry instruments that measure temperature and atmospheric pressure. The rockets being used for the mission are two Terrier-Improved Malemutes, two Terrier-Improved Orions and one Terrier-Oriole. The ATREX launch window extends from March 14 through April 3, opening no earlier than 11 p.m. EST (0400 GMT) each night and closing no later than 6:30 a.m. EST (1130 GMT) the following morning.