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NASA launching five rockets in as many minutes in ATREX weather study

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NASA will be launching five rockets within five minutes of each other, shooting tracers 60 to 90 miles into the air in an effort to better understand the high-altitude jet stream, which can move as quickly as 300 miles per hour at the edge of the Earth's atmosphere.

NASA Atrex Mission Rockets 640
NASA Atrex Mission Rockets 640

Residents on the east coast of the US should be in for a treat this week, with NASA planning to light up the night sky with the near-simultaneous launch of 5 rockets as part of a study on high-speed winds at the edge of Earth's atmosphere. The $4 million ATREX — Anomalous Transport Rocket Experiment — program will launch five different rockets within a span of five minutes from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia; the rockets will then release chemical tracers between 50 to 90 miles up into the sky. The glowing tracers will be monitored by cameras at the launch site, and in both North Carolina and New Jersey, and should be visible to the naked eye within a 250-mile radius. The rockets will themselves fall into the Atlantic Ocean.

Researchers hope the experiment will give them a better understanding of the high-altitude jet stream between the edge of Earth's atmosphere and outer space. According to current data, the stream should move around 50 miles per hour, but in reality can travel up to 300 miles per hour. For obvious reasons, the rocket launch will require a night with clear visibility, but the launch window is scheduled to be open from March 14th through April 3rd, between 11pm and 6:30am EST. If you live too far away to watch the fireworks yourself, you needn't worry — NASA will be streaming the launch live at its website.