MORABA - Suborbital Space Flight with Research Rockets and Balloons


On 27.6.2013 at 23:52:30 UTC at the Andøya Space Center on the Norwegian island of Andøya, the WADIS-1 payload was launched. A Brazilian S30 solid-fuel rocket engine brought the vehicle to a peak altitude of 115 km after 165 seconds. The payload landed safely in the sea with its parachute 620 seconds later and was recovered approximately 70 km from the mainland. WADIS – Wellenausbreitung und Dissipation in der mittleren Atmosphäre (wave propagation and dissipation in the middle atmosphere) – is the successor to the successful ECOMA programme (e.g. Countdown #15). Two WADIS campaigns have been conducted (WADIS-2 launched on 5 March 2015) and investigated the influence of gravity waves on the energy budget of the atmosphere; gravity waves which occur in the troposhere and are converted into heat energy in the mesosphere and lower thermosphere (80 to 130 km altitude). During the flight, the turbulent transportation of trace substances, such as atomic oxygen, are to be investigated and measured directly for the first time.

Scientific instrumentation

The payload has two instrument platforms with which measurements can be made during the ascent phase (front deck) and the descent phase. The front and rear experiment decks are each equipped with a set of main experiments. CONE measures neutral gas and electron density, FIPEX and PHLUX determine the concentration of atomic oxygen. In addition, there are also photometers, particle detectors and ion and electron samples on the payload, and thus this configuration has a very high density of instruments. The in-situ measurements on the rocket have been joined by terrestrial LIDAR and RADAR instruments which were calibrated at the same time. In the process, the MAARSY MF radar was used for the first time to verify the signature of the research rocket as it flew through the measuring field, and thus an opportunity for a completely new data correlation is available. Additionally, the timing of the flight of the rocket was also determined by overflight of the TIMED satellite.


A service module was developed for the payload at MORABA. It synchronises the measurements of the experiments, sets up a telemetry data flow and distributes and depicts it from the ground station for the individual scientists and supervisors of the subsystems using a dedicated network. The service module is completely waterproof and also contains the power supply for all the instruments on-board the payload, the telemetry encoder, the experiment control system and the ignition system for control and monitoring of all pyrotechnical events. A roll-decoupled inertial platform provides exact data on position and attitude of the vehicle with a high time resolution and thus aids the analysis of the scientific measurements. The GPS receiver provided by RB-FT can be used to adjust the inertial navigation solution of the platform subsequently with the absolute measurements in order to improve the positional resolution of the trajectory even further.

Given that the payload has measuring platforms in both the front section and the rear section, a recovery system specially developed by MORABA is used to recover the payload. It comprises a dual-stage parachute system and a float bladder which prevents the payload from sinking in the sea.

All the instruments on the very successful missions functioned perfectly.

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