Space and atmospheric physics on Svalbard: a case for continued incoherent scatter radar measurements under the cusp and in the polar cap boundary region

Just to let you know that the White paper which lays out a science case for a new Svalbard ISR has (finally) been published.  This was put together by the Norwegian research community.

Please feel free to pass it on to any people in the sounding rocket community / Andoya Space.


Assoc. Prof. Lisa J. Baddeley
Dept. of Geophysics
The University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS)
P.O. Box 156
N-9171 Longyearbyen

GCI M/LT student rocket – GHOST; NASA MIC completed 20.4 2023

The first, and probably the most important milestone in the GCI M/LT student rocket – GHOST, was reached on April 20th. The NASA Mission Initiation Conference (MIC) was conducted online with a whole range of participants from NASA wallops, NSROCK, Andøya Space, Tromsø Uni, Oslo Uni and more.

This meeting initiated the formal process regarding the upcoming student rocket mission as part of the Grand Challenge Initiative M/LT. It contains info and requests from both NASA, rocket PI (Chris Koehler) and the participants at the time. An outline of the meeting can be viewed in the below attachment:

One of the outcomes from the MIC is that this mission will have two CO-PIs: Chris Koehler and Kolbjørn Blix.

More info from the MIC will be added as soon as the minutes are received.

GCI M/LT related info from the combined EISCAT Symposium and LPMR Workshop – Aug. 14-19 2022

20th International EISCAT Symposium and 15th International Workshop on Layered Phenomena in the Mesopause Region (LPMR) has just finished at Sundbyholm Castle in Sweden.

During those five days several projects related to GCI M/LT was discussed, and new related projects came up. Several talks were also GCI M/LT related:

  • Blix et al. (invited), The Grand Challenge Initiative – CUSP and M/LT projects status and future plans
  • Lehmacher et al., VortEx: A ground-based and rocket experiment to study mesoscale dynamics in the MLT for February 2023
  • Mann et al., Investigating mesospheric dust with the MXD2 rocket campaign

In addition, we also learnt about a new sounding rocket project in our GCI – DEFINE: Density Field in the MLT: Neutrals, Electrons, and trace gases. Radiative and dynamical balance (Strelnikov & al)

Brief description:
The aim of this project is to investigate the density field of the mesosphere and lower thermosphere (MLT,
Mesosphere / Lower Thermosphere) by means of high-precision in-situ measurements. Furthermore, the concentration of neutral gas, electrons, ions and atomic oxygen in the lower thermosphere is to be measured with high precision for the first time. Simultaneous measurements of densities and temperature will significantly improve our understanding of energy balance and composition in this region. Combination of these measurements with observation of Airglow allows quantification of the radiation and chemical contributions to the energy budget. Since the density field reflects all the imprints of dynamics of the atmosphere, precise measurement of small-scale density fluctuations enables a detailed study of waves and their dissipation. This in turn allows the dynamic state of the MLT to be accurately described.

2 rockets are to be launched simultaneously in the spring of 2025: one from the Andøya Space and the other from the ESRANGE – the ORIGIN project from MISU (Gumbel & al).

If all goes well this will be the first time ever that two rockets have been launched from Andøya and ESRANGE simultaneously.

Data sharing:
One of the main activities in the GCI CUSP project was related to sharing data from rockets and ground based measurements. This is still an ongoing process, but in any case, the intention is that eventually all meta data from rockets and ground-based instruments will be entered into the SIOS database on Svalbard, in line with the intentions of the agreement signed by NASA, JAXA, UiO and SIOS in Tokyo in 2016. The original scientific data is meant to be stored at each individual institution.

One of the conclusions from a dedicted sounding rocket meeting during the LMPR workshop last week was to start looking the possibility for similar data sharing in the M/LT program too. Maybe we can continue to use the SIOS base also through the M/LT. This will be brought up with SIOS shortly.

GHOST student rocket:
The GCI M/LT student rocket project is still being developed by NASA and Andøya Space. What needs to be determined first is who will be the Principal Investigator (PI). If this rocket project will be conducted outside the RockSat-X (the GCI CUSP student rocket – G-CHASER (2017-2019), was run through this well established US student rocket program) we need to look into how the invitation/submission/selection processes are to be carried out.

Hopefully, the invitations can be issued later this autumn. These will go to members of the GCI M/LT consortium having contributed to the white paper, and to the members of the EASP agreement (Norway, Sweden, Germany, France and Switzerland).

The intention is still to have the launch during the November 2024 NASA RENU-3 (PI Mark Lessard from Uni of New Hampshire) campaign. More about this in the weeks to come, so keep an eye on the GCI web.

Current status GCI M/LT projects:

  • SpEED Demon*, a tech demo mission for SEED (Barjatya/Embry-Riddle) (launch week 34 2022)
  • SEED* (Sporadic E Electrodynamics) (Barjatya/Embry-Riddle): −from Kwajalein Atoll ~2024 −PI Aroh Barjatya has more info at
  • XENON (Isotopic consentration of Xenon −Launched from Esrange in August 2021.
  • PMWE 3 & 4 (IAP, DLR Moraba) −Incl 2 Vipers after the main rockets (same day) −Launched from Andøya Space, Oct 1st 2021
  • VortEx* (Lehmacher) −March 2023, 4 rockets from Andøya Space
    • 2 rockets launched March 22nd 2023
    • 2 rockets to be launched October 2024
  • ICI-5b* (4DSpace/DAEDALUS) (Miloch/UiO/Norway) (winter 2024 from Andøya Space)
  • MaxiDusty-2* (Mann/UiT/Norway) (summer 2025 from Andøya Space)
  • ORIGIN* (Gumbel/MISU/Sweden) – launch spring 2025 from ESRANGE (same time as DEFINE)
  • DEFINE* (Strelnikov/IAP/Germany) – launch spring 2025 from Andøya Space (same time as ORIGIN)
    ALOMAR Observatory measurements during ORIGIN & DEFINE
  • Turb3D (Strelnikov/Lubken/IAP/Germany)
  • SYSTER (IRF, Sweden) & BROR* (2023) (Ivchencko/KTH/Sweden)
  • ROMARA (Stude/DLR/Germany)
  • ISAS/JAXA (Abe)
  • B-SoLiTARe* “Balloon Sodium Lidar to measure Tides in the Antarctic Region” (Janches, GSFC/NASA)
  • GHOST* (Grand Challenge Mesosphere Student Rocket) (TBD) (NASA/Andøya Space)
  • To be proposed (Conde & al/U Fairbanks/Alaska) – project in the works. More info to come.

*= funded or partly funded
striked through = launched

Andøya Space, Sept. 24., 2023
Kolbjørn Blix

Diego Janches, GSFC NASA – B-SoLiTARe: “Balloon Sodium Lidar to measure Tides in the Antarctic Region” mission added to the white paper

B-SoLiTARe will be launched from McMurdo Base Antarctica during the austral summer and circumnavigate the South Pole in 7-10 days to measure, for the first time at all longitudes, tidal-like frequency (3-24 h) structures, averaged over a latitudinal band, at high southern latitudes using laser spectroscopy from a sub-orbital platform. Specifically B-SoLiTARe will address

SO1: What are the zonal (longitudinal) wavenumbers, amplitudes, and vertical structures of the diurnal (24 h-) and semidiurnal (12 h-) tides at polar latitudes, as well as the relatively unexplored 8- and 6- h tides?

SO2: Are the presence of Inertia Gravity Waves (IGWs) with periods between 3–10 has persistent and dominant throughout the summer antarctic S-MLT as recent lidar observations have shown them to be at McMurdo during winter? If so can they be distinguished from the 8, and 6 h tides based on the vertical and horizontal structure?

Full overview – check out the updated white paper below.

A. Jaynes, University of Iowa – “LAMP-2” mission added to GCI M/LT white paper

The LAMP-2 mission will be proposed to the NASA Sounding Rocket program solicitation in 2022. The mission concept is building on a currently-funded mission to be flown in February or March, 2022, LAMP: Loss through Auroral Microburst Pulsations. The aim of the LAMP mission is to investigate the connection between pulsating aurora and microburst electron precipitation from Earth’s ring current/radiation belts. This amounts to the high-energy tail of pulsating aurora, which can be relativistic in energy. The follow-on mission, LAMP-2, will further explore the high-energy portion of pulsating aurora, but include more observations of the effects of this precipitation on the atmospheric chemistry of the stratosphere, mesosphere, and lower thermosphere. The mission will be supported by ground-based radar, mm-wave spectroscopy to measure ozone content, and atmospheric modeling based on inputs from the precipitating electron spectrum measured in situ. The connection between space-based precipitation and the chemistry of the MLT region is highly relevant to the goals of the GCI M/LT. The Principal Investigator is Allison Jaynes from the University of Iowa, with Co-Is from University of New Hampshire, Dartmouth College, Goddard Space Flight Center, Clemson University, JAXA, and several Japanese research institutions. 

Checkout the latest version (2.2) of the GCI M/LT white paper. You are free to use it as a basis for applications, publications etc.

JAXA GCI CUSP sounding rocket SS-520-3 launched from Svalbard

The Japanese research rocket SS-520-3 was launched from Ny-Ålesund November 4th, 2021, to investigate the cusp region as a part of the Grand Challenge Initiative Project Cusp.

The cusp region is a funnel created by Earth’s magnetic field, and the region is the focus of a project spanning several research teams with twelve sounding rockets. The Grand Challenge Initiative Project Cusp is designed to advance the common understanding of the space physics in the cusp region.

The Japanese rocket’s specific purpose was to investigate the microscopic mechanism of the ion acceleration/heating in the cusp region by carrying out high time resolution in-situ measurements of the plasma particles and plasma waves.

The two-stage sounding rocket had a nominal, suborbital flight and was able to successfully make in-situ measurements of the cusp region. Telemetry antennas at Ny-Ålesund, Longyearbyen and Andøya participated in the mission.

The rocket reached an apogee of about 750 km.

Principal investigator for this mission was Professor Yoshifumi Saito from JAXA.

More information

Please contact Kjell Bøen, Vice President, Science & Technology, Andøya Space.

Read more about the Grand Challenge Initiative here:

Status – proposed GCI M/LT projects

Current status for proposed/funded GCI M/LT science projects planned for 2022 and later:

SEED (Sporadic E Electrodynamics) (Barjatya/Embry-Riddle):
SEED is funded by NASA. Its launch has been postponed to Summer 2022. It continues to be manifested for a launch from Kwajalein Atoll.
PI Aroh Barjatya has more info at

SONC balloon-borne experiment (Stratospheric Observations of Noctilucent Clouds) (ESRANGE, Sweden): Postponed due to Covid until August 2021. Second flight from Esrange in August 2022.

VortEX (Lehmacher/Clemson/USA):
Postponed until September 2022 or February 2023. NASA SRPO hasn’t made a final decision yet, but it will be either.

4DSpace/DAEDALUS (Miloch/UiO/Norway)
Turb3D (Strelnikov/Lubken/IAP/Germany)
MaxiDusty-2 (Mann/UiT/Norway)
ORIGIN (Gumbel/MISU/Sweden)
SYSTER & BROR (Ivchencko/KTH/Sweden)
ROMARA (Stude/DLR/Germany)

GHOST (Grand Challenge Mesosphere Student Rocket) (Blix & Koehler/Andøya Space/COSGC):
Formal part of the GHOST proposal will start late 2020/early 2021 towards NASA.

2020 Workshop:Grand Challenge Initiative MLT – CEDAR 2020

The upcoming GCI M/LT online workshop is a part of CEDAR 2020. You will find more info about this on the CEDAR 2020 web.

It might be necessary for all GCI M/LT workshop participants to register With the CEDAR 2020 in addition to the system we provided through the GCI web. However, we will come back With more info on this shortly.

Changed time slot for GCI M/LT workshop at CEDAR

UPCOMING: GCI M/LT workshop during CEDAR 2020
Will take place June 23rd, 1:30 to 3:30 PM at Eldorado Hotel and Spa. The change form 5 to 7 PM is to avoid too much overlap with the poster session which runs from 4 – 7PM.

Agenda TBD, but potential M/LT participants are requested to give a short presentation (5 mins). Focus on the importance of data sharing through the SIOS database will be one topic.