Sounding Rockets

Space is an interesting experiment location for any research object for which microgravity is required for a few minutes. The investigation of biological, physical and physiological processes in microgravity is an important subject of current research. The findings are used to better understand our world and in particular the question of how life on Earth began.

MORABA looks back on a variety of projects and campaigns in which it was involved: melting furnaces, instruments for observing the solar eclipse, experiments for the global positioning system GPS, and yes – even fish have flown on-board as passengers. This is just part of the range of experiments which have been flown aboard MORABA’s rockets.

As early as 1966, with the first mobile campaign on the Greek island of Euboea to study the solar eclipse, MORABA proved that it was possible to take comprehensive technical and scientific equipment to a difficult to access launch pad and set it up at an predefined time.

Research under Microgravity Conditions

Sounding rockets can be used to conduct research under microgravity conditions at comparably cost effective conditions. They basically follow a ballistic, parabolic trajectory and are propelled by a solid-propellant rocket. An attached payload structure houses the scientific experiments or measuring instruments. Landing with a parachute makes it possible to bring sensitive instruments back to the scientists and then analyse not only the measured data, but also the recovered matieral. Radio transmission during flight is also possible.

Generally, sounding rockets are unguided vehicles. For special applications and requirements, the use of guidance or pointing systems is possible. The use of mobile launch infrastructure makes the application areas flexible and adaptable to the researcher’s needs.

Sounding rockets can provide 3–15 minutes of microgravity conditions. In doing so, the largest and most powerful of them reach altitudes of up to 800 km.

Speeds of Mach 7–12 can be achieved for hypersonic experiments.

More information on the launch vehicles can be found here.

The Rocket Motors S30, S31 and S50 as well as the vehicles consisting of these motors are developed and operated together with our Brazilian cooperation partners of the Aeronautics and Space Institute (IAE) at the Department of Aerospace Science and Technology (DCTA), as well as the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB).The rocket motors are produced by IAE’s facilities near Sao Jose dos Campos and made available to MORABA for launches world wide.

A new solid rocket motor with the name “Red Kite” is currently developed together with Bayern-Chemie GmbH. It will expand MORABAs capabilities and performance spectrum. 

Typical flight sequence of a sounding rocket

A sounding rocket sends the payload with the experiments on a parabolic trajectory – comparable with a vertical upwards throw of a ball. The total period of microgravity depends on the drop height. A parachute brings the experiments back to the Earth safely, where they can be analysed. Data can also be transferred during the flight.