Back to Current Projects
CUSP Sounding Rocket

- Main
- Results
- Publications

CUSP Sounding Rocket

NASA CUSP rocket launched successfully at 11:16:48 UT on December 14, 2002


Members of the U of C's Institute for Space Research have completed a novel scientific instrument which launched into space on December 14, 2002. The "Suprathermal Ion and Electron Imager" or SII/SEI measured the density, velocity and temperature of the upper ionosphere above Spitzbergen, Norway. The rocket launch facility on this remote island at 79°N latitude was chosen because in December it is dark twenty-four hours a day, allowing scientists to see the aurora borealis even at noon. The aurora occurs at all times, but is usually not visible during the day except at the highest latitudes and in winter, where the dim auroral light is not obscured by sunlight.

The noon-time aurora has a very different appearance than the green curtains characteristic of auroras seen at night. Daytime auroras tend to be red, and are less structured. The different appearance is due to different properties of the electron beams that cause the auroras. Nighttime auroras are typically due to energetic (~10 keV), tenuous electron beams while auroras near noon are the result of beams that are less energetic (<1 keV) but more dense.


Balance and moments testing with all booms deployed. The SII/SEI booms are the vertical pair in the photo.

The SII/SEI was one of eight instruments on the "Cusp" sounding rocket experiment led by Dr. Robert Pfaff of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. The name Cusp comes from the region of the magnetosphere through which the rocket flew, attaining an altitude of 765 km in its 15-minute, sub-orbital flight. The rocket itself was a Black Brant X (Mod 1).

The SII/SEI was designed, built and tested in the Institute for Space Research by a technical team of seven (Peter King, Kaare Berg, Greg Enno, Armando Hernandez, Cliff Marcellus, Ivan Wevers, and Robert Thomson) under the direction of David Knudsen. Funding for the SII/SEI was from the Canadian Space Agency. This was the second flight of the SII/SEI, the first being on the Calgary-led GEODESIC sounding rocket mission launched from Alaska in February, 2000.


CUSP Rocket Status: as reported by the SvalRak launch team at the site.

CUSP rocket launched successfully at 11:16:48 UT on December 14, 2002

CUSP SII - Results

SII-related Publications:

Burchill, J. K., D. J. Knudsen, J. H. Clemmons, K. Oksavik, R. F. Pfaff, C. T. Steigies, A. W. Yau, and T. K. Yeoman (2010), Thermal ion upflow in the cusp ionosphere and its dependence on soft electron energy flux, J. Geophys. Res., 115, A05206, doi:10.1029/2009JA015006.