Science and Technology Current Affairs

NASA to launch Sounding Rocket to release Radiant Artificial Clouds

NASA will launch the Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket into the space that will release blue-green and red artificial clouds. The launch is expected to support space studies. The launch which was originally scheduled for May 31 eventually got delayed due to poor weather conditions. The ground stations will require clear skies to clearly view blue-green and red artificial clouds that will be produced as part of the test. These artificial clouds will be visible from New York to North Carolina.

Salient Highlights

The rocket will eject vapour canisters between 10 to 20 km from the rocket’s main payload. These canisters will release the vapour after launch. Ground cameras will be stationed to view the vapour tracers. The vapour tracers will be formed due to the  interaction of barium, strontium and cupric-oxide.

The multi-canister or ampule ejection system will facilitate the scientists  to gather information over a much larger area.

The total flight time of the mission will be around 8 minutes.


Sounding rockets derive their name from the nautical term “to sound” that is to take measurements. The sounding rockets are short lived and follows a parabolic trajectory.

The significance of the launch lies in the fact that the vapour traces can be helpful in studying the ionosphere. Since the 1950s, scientists are making use of the sounding rockets to study high-level winds and the Earth’s magnetic field. Since these fields are invisible to the human eye, tracer elements like barium makes their movement visible. It will help in the study of the motion of the charged particles in the ionosphere as well as the motion of the neutral particles in the upper atmosphere.


NASA is all Set to Launch First Ever Mission to Study Neutron Stars

NASA is all set to launch the world’s first ever mission devoted for studying neutron stars. NASA will  launch the Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer, or NICER, aboard a Falcon 9 rocket.

The NICER will be installed aboard the International Space Station (ISS) as an external attached payload. About a week after its installation, the NICER will begin observing neutron stars. The mission will focus especially on Pulsars. During the mission, NASA will also carry out the world’s first demonstration of X-ray navigation in space.


Pulsars are those neutron stars that appear to wink on and off like a cosmic lighthouse. As these pulsars send pulsations that are predictable. They can be used as celestial clocks for providing high-precision timing similar to that of the atomic-clock signals supplied through the Global Positioning System (GPS).  GPS signals, however, gets weakened if one travels beyond the orbit of the Earth. On the other hand, Pulsars remain accessible virtually everywhere in space making them an apt navigational solution for deep-space exploration. NICER will perform tests for the first time in a space technology that relies on pulsars as navigation beacons.

Pulsars and Neutron stars are nothing but the remnants of massive stars which exploded and collapsed into super-dense spheres after exhausting their nuclear fuel. Pulsars were discovered in 1967 by British astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell.

It is estimated that just one teaspoonful of neutron star matter would weigh a billion tonnes on Earth. There have been many models that attempt to describe the physics governing the interiors of neutron stars. The NICER mission will help in finally testing these theories with precise observations. Observation of neutron stars in the energetic X-ray band provides the greatest insights into their structure and the phenomenons like starquakes, thermonuclear explosions as well as of the most powerful magnetic fields known in the cosmos.