Poker Flat Research Range
Poker Flat Research Range is a launch facility and rocket range for sounding rockets, part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute, about thirty miles northeast of Fairbanks on the Steese Highway near the old Chatanika gold camp. It is the world's largest land-based rocket range and the only high-latitude rocket range in the United States. It operates under contract to the NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Launches study the earth's atmosphere, its interaction with the space environment, aurora, plasma physics, the ozone layer, solar proton events, the earth's magnetic field, and ultraviolet radiation. There are five launch pads, two of them optimized for severe weather operations. Most launches take place during the winter, from January to March. The first rocket launch from Poker Flat was in March 1969. The rockets and payloads are retrieved from down-range, which may be up to a thousand miles away on the ice. Many of the payloads can be refurbished and re-used. Poker Flat also performs satellite tracking and satellite data downlinks for polar earth-orbiting satellites.
We got lucky in that our group of visitors had our tour briefing with the range manager of the facility herself, Kathe Rich, and so had a very-detailed and interesting introduction to Poker Flat.
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Last modified 7 September 2016