REXUS 11 takes to the skies

29/11/2012 964 views 3 likes
ESA / Education

After a pause for 9 months, the delayed REXUS 11 sounding rocket took to the skies on 16 November 2012. It carried five student designed and built experiments, and successfully brought the programme to a close for 2012.

The delayed REXUS launch resumed at 11:45 (CET) on 16 November 2012. The single-stage sounding rocket blasted off into the sky from the Esrange Space Center near Kiruna, in Northern Sweden. The payload was then recovered by helicopter and returned to the base at around 14:00 CET. It was the last launch in the REXUS (Rocket Experiments for University Students) programme in 2012.

Three experimental teams were sponsored by the Swedish National Space Board (SNSB) and ESA.

RAIN (Rocket deployed Atmospheric probes conducting Independent measurements in Northern Sweden) from KTH (Royal Institute of Technology), Sweden, set out to prove that high-resolution measurements of middle atmosphere’s aerosols could be made. To do this, the experiment ejected two Free Flying Units slightly before reaching 80km, the maximum altitude of its trajectory (or apogee). The units took measurements during their descent. Such data could improve our understanding of atmospheric composition, and its interaction with sunlight.

Telescobe 2 from DIT (Dublin Institute of Technology), Ireland, deployed a 1.6m boom during the flight to demonstrate that  such a device could be used to mount scientific sensors. This experiment was equipped with a live-feed camera, which allowed the students and organisers in the Space Center to see the view from the rocket during part of the ascent.

GGES (Gravity Gradient Earth Sensor), from EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne), Switzerland, demonstrated a prototype sensor that used a Micro-Electro-Mechanical system to determine altitude in future CubeSats and nano-satellites.

Two additional experiments were sponsored by the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

CaRu (Capillary under milligravity shown on Runge Pictures) from a student team of the Technical University of Dresden, Germany, examined the effect of low gravity conditions on the capillary effect and compared it with existing theoretical models. This experiment was also equipped with a live feed camera allowing a view of the inside of the module during some of the flight.

ADIOS (ADvanced Isolation On Sounding-rockets), provided by students of the FH (Fachhochschulen) Aachen in Germany, furthers a project to develop a cost-effective microgravity platform for use on sounding rockets that reduces the vibrations felt by the experiments.

As well as the experimental results, working as part of the REXUS programme gave the students inspiration. “I have learned more from this experience than I have in any project I have ever undertaken before. The quality of engineering I have seen during the REXUS project was inspiring to say the very least. I have had the pleasure of meeting some of the finest engineers I have ever seen in action. I now have the pleasure of calling them friends,” says Jack Keegan from Telescobe 2.

The REXUS/BEXUS programme is realised under a bilateral Agency Agreement between the DLR and SNSB. The Swedish share of the payload has been made available to students from other European countries through a collaboration with the ESA.

EuroLaunch, a cooperation between the Esrange Space Center of SSC and the Mobile Rocket Base (MORABA) of DLR, is responsible for the campaign management and operations of the launch vehicles. Experts from ESA, SSC and DLR provide technical support to the student teams throughout the project.

The programme will continue next year with two more flights REXUS 13/14. The call for proposals for REXUS 15/16 closed on 22 October 2012.

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