Sounding rockets take their name from the nautical term "to
sound," which means to take measurements. Since 1959,
NASA-sponsored space and earth science research has used
sounding rockets to test instruments used on satellites and
spacecraft and to provide information about the Sun, stars,
galaxies and Earth's atmosphere and radiation.
Sounding rockets carry experiments to altitudes between 50 and 1,500 km and fly in nearly parabolic trajectories re-entering the atmosphere downrange from the launch site. Each flight lasts around 20 - 30 minutes.
Science missions focus on geospace research, solar physics, astrophysics and atmospheric studies. Telescopes launched with sounding rockets are used for planetary, solar and astrophysics studies.
New technologies for future satellite missions are tested with sounding rockets, allowing scientists to verify functionality of instruments prior to committing to a multiyear space mission. Sounding rockets are used for carrying and releasing re-entry test vehicles. The instrumented re-entry body transmits data on dynamic pressure, orientation, velocity and other characteristics of the flight. This research helps answer questions about landing probes on other celestial bodies, such as Mars.
The hands-on approach to instrument design, integration and flight, as well as the short mission life-cycle, provides opportunities for the next generation of space scientists and engineers. Students are often involved through participation in the science missions or through dedicated education missions supported by NASA.
NASA's Sounding Rockets Program (NSRP) is managed by the Sounding Rockets Program Office (SRPO), located at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia.
Learn more about sounding sockets Here.