Brian Dunbar NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

May 7, 1992 (Phone: 202/453-1547) Keith Koehler Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va. (Phone: 804/824-1579) RELEASE: 92-60 El CoquI Sounding Rocket Campaign Set for Puerto Rico Project El Coqui, a NASA sounding rocket campaign to study the ionosphere, will be conducted in Puerto Rico, May 17 through July 13, 1992. Project El Coqui includes the final elements of NASA's portion of the Combined Release and Radiation Effects Satellite (CRRES) program, a joint NASA/U.S. Air Force mission studying the Earth's magnetic field and the effects of naturally occurring space radiation on advance electronics. NASA will launch eight suborbital rockets during this period carrying payloads to study the electrically conducting ionosphere layers that extend from 30 to 620 miles altitude and to trace the geometry of electric and magnetic fields. During the project, scientists from universities, NASA and other government agencies will create artificial disturbances in the ionosphere to learn more about how it reacts to natural disturbances. Cornell University Professor Mike Kelley, El Coqui Campaign Scientist, said, "We're excited about the science we're going to do" in Puerto Rico. He noted the campaign is the most intensive use of sounding rockets to conduct active experiments in space on the ionosphere. NASA is using sounding rockets,

ground observation sites in Puerto Rico and other locations in the Caribbean, and optical observation aircraft staging out of Antigua to conduct the active experiments. The ionosphere interests scientists because it acts like a mirror, reflecting high frequency radio waves, carrying currents that affect power systems on the ground and disturbing satellite signals that must pass through it. - more -2The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va., established a launch range for Project El Coqui on an abandoned airfield adjacent to the Camp Tortuguero Recreation Area, on the northern coast of Puerto Rico between San Juan and Arecibo. Wallops is supplying launch rails, telemetry systems, tracking radars and other support equipment. The availability of the range and radars are unique to Puerto Rico. Arecibo, which is operated by Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation, Washington, D.C., houses the largest and most sensitive radio telescope and radar in the world. The Arecibo Incoherent Scatter Radar and High Frequency Ionospheric Heating Facility are critical for conducting the experiments. The eight sounding rockets will be launched between 7:30 p.m. and 5:10 a.m. EDT. The majority of the launches will be conducted between dusk and dawn during "Moon down" periods. These are times when there is an absence of moonlight in the sky. Six of the sounding rocket payloads will release tracer chemicals to form artificial clouds in the sky, five will be visible to the naked eye. The chemical releases will light up the magnetic field lines in space, making visible ordinarily invisible features. The rocket launches should be visible from most of Puerto Rico, especially along the northern coast and San Juan. Wallops' Jay Brown, Project El Coqui Campaign Manager, said "The public beaches on the northern Puerto Rico coast offer the best vantage point for those wishing to see the launches." He

added that the Camp Tortuguero Recreation Area will be closed to the public during the launches. The artificial clouds should be visible throughout all of the Caribbean and will provide a "marvelous opportunity for photography or just plain observation," Kelley said. The artificial clouds should take approximately 4 to 5 minutes to form. Pre-dawn releases may be visible for up to 20 minutes while the dusk releases may be seen for 30 to 40 minutes, according to Kelley. NASA will use three types of suborbital sounding rocket vehicles, according to Brown. The vehicles include one single-stage Black Brant VC, one two-stage Nike-Tomahawk, and six two-stage Black Brant IX sounding rockets.

- more -3These sounding rockets are all solid-fueled vehicles and range in overall length from 26 to 43 feet. They will fly to altitudes ranging from 78 to 264 miles. None of the payloads will be recovered. As part of Project El Cqui, NASA is conducting a variety of educational programs for teachers and students in Puerto Rico including tours of the launch operations. The public may view a project exhibit at the Tortuguero Recreation Area adjacent to the launch range during daytime hours. Two University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez students also are participating in the project through Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., and the Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., fellowships. Jose Rosado Roman will work with a radar located on St. Croix during the project and Nestor Aponte will work at the Arecibo radar. In addition, Nayda Santiago, a teacher at Mayaguez, received her Master's degree from Cornell University after completing her final design project through the CRRES program. Project El Coqui is managed at Wallops for NASA's Office of

Space Science and Applications. The program consists of approximately 30 sounding rockets launched each year from various worldwide locations. - end Editors Note: Photos of sounding rocket payloads for Project El Coqui assembly and testing are available through the Wallops Public Affairs Office at (804) 824-1579. A video on the CRRES program, including segments on Project El Coqui and a previous sounding rocket campaign that was a part of CRRES, and clips of payloads prepared at Wallops for Project El Coqui is available through the Wallops Public Affairs Office. A media center will open May 10 through 24 at the Camp Tortuguero Recreation Area on Rt. 687 in Puerto Rico adjacent to the launch range. The telephone number for the media center is available from the Wallops Public Affairs Office. A press briefing will be held at the launch range media center at 10 a.m. Atlantic Standard Time, Thursday, May 14. A tour of the launch range for photo opportunities will be conducted following the briefing. - more -4The launch windows for each sounding rocket in local time -Atlantic Standard: Vehicle Dates Visible Artificial Cloud Time

Nike-Tomahawk 5/17-29 1930-2030 yes Principal Investigator: Dr. Lewis Duncan, Clemson University Black Brant IX 5/26-6/6 2330-0400 no 36.065 DE Principal Investigator: Dr. Paul Bernhardt, Naval Research

Laboratory Black Brant IX 6/1-13 0410-0510 yes Principal Investigator: Dr. Ed Szuszczewicz, Science Applications International Corp. Black Brant IX 6/7-28 2300-0300 no Principal Investigator: Dr. Michael Kelley, Cornell University Black Brant VC 6/15-28 2000-2400 no 21.105 GE Principal Investigator: Dr. Robert Pfaff, Goddard Space Flight Center Black Brant IX 6/30-7/6 0410-0510 yes Principal Investigator: Dr. Edward J. Weber, Air Force Geophysics Lab. Black Brant IX 6/30-7/13 0410-0510 yes Principal Investigator: Dr. Frank Djuth, Geospace Research, Inc. Black Brant IX 7/6-13 0410-0510 yes Principal Investigator: Dr. Edward J. Weber, Air Force Geophysics Lab. - end -