Article referring to Skua Met. Rocket
Gan Island Post 10th July 1972

No, the Met. Office is not trying to punch holes in Cu-nims to stop it raining on Gan, though miraculously,
the last wet period did cease as we started our firings. In case you have been lying in bed awaiting the
inevitable crash of metal through the billet roof after the bang and roar have died away, may I assure you
all rockets are landing at least 25 kilometres to the south of the island.
At launch the booster motor burns for 0.2 seconds with the main motor igniting almost simultaneously.
Burning continues for a further 30 seconds or so by which time the rocket has reached a height of about 20
kilometres. It then coasts to an apogee of around 70 - 75 Km depending on the launch angle. At apogee,
a small charge forces off the nose cone liberating the transmitter or "sonde", as it is called, and its parachute.
There is a temperature sensor attached to the transmitter, and as the surrounding air temperature changes,
so does the note emitted by the sonde which is picked up on the ground receiver. Coupled to this ground
equipment is device capable of plotting out the data in real time as the payload descends through the
stratosphere. The parachute supporting the sonde on its descent has metallised panels which effectively
make a very good radar target. Thus, its fall path can be tracked by ground radar and by monitoring its
displacement. Winds at various heights can be computed. We usually record wind and temperature data
down to a height of 20 km, which is normally achieved about 45 minutes after lift off.
The reason for firing several rockets over a fairly short time interval is because we are trying to detect what
are called gravity waves, which, theoreticians say, exist in the tropics in the stratosphere. Basically they are
periodic variations in temperature occurring in the vertical. It is thought that winds will vary in a similar manner,
but as yet there is little practical evidence for the phenomenon. The Americans have tried a similar experiment
with moderate success, but most of their firings were performed in daytime, thereby suffering from the effects
of solar heating on the temperature censor and hence introducing the necessity for large corrections to be
applied to the temperatures recorded. Since the variations in temperature we are trying to detect are probably
of the order of 2 or 3 degrees C, one can see that the smallest correction possible must be applied. This is
achieved by firing rockets at night.
One now asks what use will it all be? Well, in this age of computers, man is also trying to use the machine to
predict the weather. This can only be done satisfactory if the computer is programmed correctly, and then,
only if the most accurate data possible is fed into it. It is now thought that variations in the temperature and
circulations patterns in the stratosphere as a whole could have long term effects on weather patterns, and the
sort of data we have been collecting here on Gan will be invaluable to the programmers when dealing with
atmospheric models embracing the tropics. Also, the gravity wave has been regarded by the mathematicians
as the main source of transfer of energy from the tropics to more temperate regions. The end product of
transfer is those delightful disturbances which frequently affect the UK called depressions. Still, early days yet,
and we have only had a preliminary inspection of the data. Temperature changes do seem to be taking place
with time, and also with height, so after much processing at Bracknell we may well find what we are looking for.
In conclusion, may I take this opportunity to thank all personnel here on Gan who have in any way been
connected with our work and who have devoted so much time and effort towards what may well be a very
successful experiment

Gordon Bridge
Skua Metrocket Section, Bracknell
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