– This kind of opportunity is among the best that can happen during one's time as a student, says Elias Krantz, student at the Master Programme in Space Engineering and project manager for SALACIA.
– To be involved and perform all phases in a rocket project will teach us things we could not have learned in any other way. Within the project we have different roles based on what suits us best. Some focus on electronics and will therefore learn a lot in that area. Similarly, others focus on mechanics, software, research, finance and public relations.
Salt and water
The instrument SALACIA (Saline Liquids and Conductivity in the Atmosphere) consists of five containers of various salts that will which will hydrate, i.e., react with water, as the rocket travels through the atmosphere. The aim is to examine how the salts hydrates, depending on atmospheric composition; humidity, temperature and pressure. The rocket reaches an altitude of 90 kilometers and will thus pass through the troposphere, stratosphere and mesosphere.
SALACIA is a first attempt to test the instrument HABIT, the instrument that the research group in Atmospheric Science at Luleå University of Technology eventually will place on Mars. The background is the findings of an active water cycle on Mars, the process by which liquid water in form of brines is transiently present on Mars surface.
– Some heights that the rocket will pass through, has Mars-like characteristics and are therefore particularly interesting. The total amount of water absorbed will be observed by measuring the electrical conductivity of the salts, how this changes during the flight. Even some of the atmospheric conditions will be measured, says Elias Krantz.
Challenges require solutions
The rocket launch is scheduled for March 2017 and will take place from Esrange in Kiruna. Until then, the students are faced with several challenges. For example, in order to examine how the salts absorb water, the salts must be entirely dry and free from water just before launch. Another challenge involves the module containing the salts. For best results, the environment inside the containers must be the same as outside when it comes to temperature, pressure, humidity and air composition.
– There will be holes in our module for a constant inflow and outflow of air. But it is very difficult to ensure that we get the conditions we want, says Elias Krantz.
– A third challenge is that we will experience weightlessness when the rocket starts to fall. It complicates all of our measurements, because we can no longer keep track of the salt’s and the water’s positions. Therefore we need to find some clever solutions to our mechanical design of the salt container and our sensors.
The project REXUS (Rocket Experiments for University Students) aims to provide a chance of experimental experience for aerospace students, and it is a joint program developed by the Swedish National Space Board (SNSB) and the German Aerospace Centre (DLR).