FAIRBANKS - The last launch of the season is scheduled for midnight tonight (April 26) at Poker Flat Research Range, if skies are clear and the weather is good.

A Terrier Black Brant will be launched so NASA scientists can study the rocket's performance in the upper atmosphere and test recovery aids packed into the rocket's 22.5-foot payload. The rocket is expected to reach a peak altitude of 183 vertical miles.

Principal investigator Chuck Brodell, from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, says this rocket launch provides NASA an opportunity to learn what recovery mechanisms, such as strobe lights and streamers, work best in the Alaska terrain.

The payload includes a GPS unit that will deploy from the rocket by parachute. The GPS will transmit its coordinates to NASA and Poker Flat personnel. Staffers will take a fixed-wing plane to locate the rocket, which will be recovered by helicopter later in the week.

The range is managed by the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks under contract to NASA. The facility opened in the late 1960s. It is the only high-latitude sounding rocket range in the country, as well as the only rocket range owned by a university. It’s located north of Fairbanks at Mile 30 Steese Highway.

In January and February, rockets were launched to obtain images of distant galaxies and to measure nitric oxide — a molecule that destroys ozone in the ionosphere.