Friday, April 24, 2009

Project Highwater

On April 25, 1962, the United States launched the second Saturn rocket into space. The suborbital flight was both a test of the booster as well as an interesting scientific experiment.

The Saturn-Apollo 2 vehicle had a standard S-IB first stage. The upper two stages were dummies ("battleships," in rocket parlance) filled with 95 tons of water. When the first stage cut off at about 65 miles altitude, the upper stages were detonated, and the water was released into the upper atmosphere. Rapidly-expanding ice clouds formed, and lightning-like static discharges were observed from the ground. The cloud continued moving upward to a height of about 100 miles.

Investigators were interested in examining the effects of a sudden discharge of liquid into the upper atmosphere (such as would happen if a rocket exploded at high altitude). They also tested the effects on radio transmissions from such a disturbance in the ionosphere.

No comments: