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SOUNDING ROCKETS Stepping Stone to Orbital Flight
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ITA Sounding Rocket History Highlights Sounding rockets carry scientific instruments into space along parabolic trajectories, providing nearly vertical traversals along their up-leg and down-leg, while appearing to "hover" near their apogee location. Whereas the overall time in space is brief (typically 5-20 minutes), this can be enough to conduct some serious research or test hardware in microgravity conditions.  In all, ITA flew on eight sounding rocket missions during its early hardware development phase from ’89 thru ’99. The Consort rockets provided about seven minutes of microgravity conditions for about 300 kg of payload.  Consort 1, ITAs first mission into space in March of ‘89, carried a 295 kg package of six microgravity experiments under a $1million dollar contract from the Consortium for Materials Development in Space at the University of Alabama. Operations were conducted from White Sands' complex 36 under U.S. Navy control.  The Joust rocket, which ITA flew on in June of ’91, was to yield over 14 minutes of microgravity for 240 kg payload.  Joust 1 was a commercial suborbital rocket carrying 10 materials and biotechnology experiments.  It was launched from Complex 20 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.  The mission was sponsored by the University of Alabama in Huntsville's Consortium for Materials Development in Space (UAH CMDS), a NASA Center for Commercial Development of Space.  Orbital Sciences Corp. provided the rocket and launch services.  However, about 15 seconds after liftoff, the Prospector sounding rocket deviated from its planned trajectory and was destroyed by range safety at 25 seconds into the flight.         Consort 4 carried nine materials processing and biotechnology experiments from White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), N.M. in late ‘91.  It provided the payload with almost 7 minutes of microgravity and proved to be a very historic flight because it was on that mission that the first microcapsules of a drug (microencapsulation) were made using ITA hardware, the Materials Dispersion Apparatus (MDA).  The drug encapsulated was an antibiotic called Streptavidin. In all, ITA flew on all six Consort missions.  Consort 2 and Consort 5 were launch failures but, the other four missions were quite successful and helped us to “ring the bugs” out of our hardware for future orbital missions.  One little known milestone, during Consort 3, which flew in May ’90, we successfully “diffused” Vermouth and Vodka for the first time creating the first American made Vodka Martini in space.  Word has it that the Russians may have accomplished this feat before us during a manned orbital mission but, we felt it important to prove that it could be done via a completely autonomous approach. In March of ’99, ITA tried its hand in an international good will mission with the country of Brazil.  Two ITA MDAs were the payload on the Brazilian VS-30 "Operacao San Marcos Microgravity mission" launch from the Brazilian launch center in Alcantra.  The successful flight reached an apogee of 128 km and carried a number of commercial and university/student experiments.
Consort 4 Sounding Rocket Research Leads to New Drug Delivery System
Consort-4 Sounding Rocket Launch