A Utah State University experiment with potential defense applications was successfully launched aboard a three-stage rocket from Hawaii, a university spokesman said Wednesday.
The experiment was designed and built at USU's Space Dynamics Lab and was launched from the Kauai Test Facility on Feb. 18 as part of the space program operated by the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization and the Naval Research Laboratory.The experiment, called the Ultraviolet Science Package, was placed aboard the rocket to gather data on rocket plume "signatures."
The device used two cameras to track and record images of the ultraviolet portion of the rocket's exhaust plume at an altitude of approximately 62 miles. Those images will be used to help scientists pinpoint a rocket's location.
The experiment also confirmed that objects in space have their own ultraviolet signatures, said Carl Howlett, an engineer at USU's space lab and program manager for the Ultraviolet Science Package.
"Understanding and recording an object's unique ultraviolet signature will allow researchers to develop a table of the signatures of various types of rockets, which could be used to identify incoming rockets," Howlett said.
The obvious application would be to identify enemy rockets entering U.S. airspace, or anywhere else in the world, Howlett said.
The experiments were built in eight months and gathered data for about six minutes during the flight. Analyzing the data gathered will take about one year, Howlett said.