Wallops Island, Va. – A NASA rocket mission to test technology for gathering science data successfully launched Tuesday afternoon.
During the suborbital flight the rocket produced two red-colored lithium vapor trails that were seen throughout the mid-Atlantic region.
Libby West, mission project manager with the NASA Sounding Rocket Program Office at Wallops, said “This launch is a technology test flight for two upcoming missions. We will be testing two different methods for creating the lithium vapor to determine which configuration is best for observing various science phenomena in space.”
NASA has two missions later this year that will use the lithium trails to assist scientists in observing events in space. The first is scheduled for April in the central Pacific Ocean from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands and the second will occur in June at Wallops.
The lithium combustion process poses no threat to the public during the release in space. When heated, the lithium rods change to lithium vapor and small amounts of lithium oxide.