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Lynch Rocket Lab

Research Overview

In this lab, we are studying the structure and dynamics of the auroral ionosphere. This study has several parts. Sounding rocket missions such as Cascades use multiple-payload probes to look at spatial and temporal variations in auroral precipitation. Data analysis studies of the FAST and Cluster satellite data sets allow statistical investigations of auroral processes. Laboratory plasma studies in a large calibration/plasma vacuum chamber (the "Elephant") allow us to characterize the response of our particle detectors to the thermal auroral plasma, and the response of an ionospheric-like thermal plasma to the presence of our probes. Many students both undergraduate and graduate work in our lab, and the Greencube project is a student-run small-spacecraft design and launch project. Recent efforts are focussed toward the use of commercially available technologies such as Arduino platforms to low-resource spacecraft design, enabling low-cost reproduction of a large number of sensing platforms.

Ongoing Projects

Small Rockets Campaign: 2015

Investigation Title: ISINGLASS (Ionospheric Structuring: In Situ and Groundbased Low Altitude Studies)

The upcoming ISINGLASS sounding rocket mission will sample multiple locations simultaneously in the auroral ionosphere to take gradient measurements of plasma parameters. This mission builds on the previous MICA mission as well as the testing done by the Dartmouth GreenCube group for the development of the multi-point sensorcraft. In addition to the design and fabrication of the many payloads for this mission, the primary instrument (Petite Ion Probe) must be calibrated. This will build on the work from Lisa Fisher done in the ELEPHANT chamber. Once the data have been acquired, a method of interpretation is needed as well. Simply interpolating sample data often yields subpar results, therefore an assimilation tool is needed which allows the data to be assimilated in the context of other information such as ground camera data of the visible aurora nearby the rockets. The information gained in this process is also being applied to a CubeSat swarm concept to sample the aurora via localized multipoint measurements on orbital spacecraft.

Small Rockets Campaign: 2012-13

Investigation Title: Sounding rocket payload systems for in-situ measurement of ionosphere-thermosphere structure at small spatial scales

Principal investigator and institution: Mark Conde, UAF/GI A sequence of small (large amateur-class) rockets to be launched from Poker Flat for technology development of the deployment of an array of small payloads from a deployer vehicle. Dartmouth will be providing Arduino-based electronics for the deployables to measure their position, attitude, and acceleration; and will investigate the use of 900MHz "DNT" radio systems for local communications.

Green Cube

Investigation Title: Green Cube

Science Team WIKI

GreenCube II logo The undergraduates in the JPL-sponsored GreenCube project of the Lynch Rocket Lab, are developing a CubeSat-class autonomous sensor payload, which they fly on balloons across New Hampshire and this spring will be floating in an array down the Connecticut (and other) River(s). ``Cubesat'' is a small satellite prototype established by CalPoly and Stanford Universities. Similar satellites have been used by many other universities and student satellite programs because of its relatively easy and inexpensive design. Our 3UCubeSat payloads fly on bursting balloons that reach approximately 90,000 ft. in the air before falling back to earth with a parachute. The total flight takes approximately two hours. We have flown 6 such flights across NH so far. This spring we will be floating an array of 20 Arduino-based GPS-enabled GreenCube payloads down rivers to study river transport of large woody debris, an important parameter in geography studies of fluvial morphology and of recent importance in Vermont given the damage done by Hurricane Irene last year.

Learn more....

Current ElephantElephant Laboratory Facility

Click here for current updates and photos!

Investigation Title: Elephant

Principal Investigator and Institutions: Kristina Lynch (Dartmouth College)
An NSF Career grant funds the ELEPHANT project.

MICA Campaign - February 2012

Investigation Title: MICA: Magnetosphere-Ionosphere Coupling in the Alfvén Resonator

Updates and Photos

Science Team Campaign Page

Principal Investigator Institution: Cornell

Launched February 18 2012 from Poker Flat, Alaska.

Click for larger image

RENU Campaign - November 2010

Investigation Title: RENU: Rocket Experiment for Neutral Upwelling

Updates and Photos

Principal Investigator and Institutions: Marc Lessard, UNH

Launched in 2010 from Andoya, Norway, over the EISCAT Svalbard radar.

RENU Payload

Cascades-2: Launched!!

Click here for recent updates.

Click here for launch data.


Investigation Title: The Changing Aurora: In Situ and Camera Analysis of Dynamic Electron Precipitation Structures

Principal Investigator and Institutions: Kristina Lynch, Dartmouth College

Co-institutions: Cornell, UNH, UAF/GI

Click here for more information about this investigation.

Cascades-2 flew from Poker in 2009.

Photo by Robert Michell

Scifer-2 Launch - January 2008

Investigation Title: SCIFER-2: Sounding of the Cusp Ion Fountain Energization Region-2

Updates and photos

Data and Results

The picture above shows the trajectory of the Scifer-2 rocket over Svalbard.

Principal Investigator and Institutions: Paul M. Kintner, Jr., Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

Launched in 2008 from Norway over the EISCAT radar.


Image constructed by Scott Hesh, NSROC

ROPA Data Analysis

Investigation Title: ROPA: Rocket Observations of Pulsating Aurora

The picture shows the launch of the ROPA rocket on February 12, 2007.

Click here to see data analysis progress.

Click here to follow progress of launch campaign.

Principal Investigator and Institutions: Marc Lessard, UNH

Launched in 2007 at Poker Flat, Alaska.


Picture taken by Scott Hesh, NSROC

DUST project successfully launched!

Click here for current updates and photos!

Investigation Title: DustOrions, a study of mesospheric meteoric dust layers

Principal Investigator and Instituions: Kristina Lynch (Dartmouth College); Co-Is Lynette Gelinas (Cornell), Richard Collins (UAF/GI)

Co-investigators and Institutions: Lynette Gelinas (Cornell), Richard Collins (UAF/GI)

Was launched March 2005 at Poker Flat. The DustDetector was flown again in February 2008 on the HotPay2 flight from Andoya, Norway, and in July 2008 on the ECOMA Project, also from Andoya.