The SS-520-2 is scheduled to be launched from Svalbard Rocket Experiment Site, Norway, at the end of November 2000. The site, the northern-most launch complex in the world, lies 79deg.`north and approximately 1000km from the North Pole. The site was selected because the rocket is to be launched toward the point called the “cusp,” which is of course the target of this rocket experiment. Results from observations using the AKEBONO satellite have shown that solar winds enter the cusp directly at a low altitude, and that upper-atmosphere ions stream in quantity out of the earth’s atmosphere. Some specific accelerating/heating mechanism must be in operation for heavy-ions, which are normally constrained by the earth’s gravity, to be ejected. It is considered that the mechanism starts to work at altitudes above around 1000km. The SS-520-2’s purpose is to investigate this physical mechanism precisely, by launching the rocket toward the point where the acceleration/heating occurs. Since this study has been in the spotlight recently, researchers in Canada, U.S.A. and Europe are showing keen interest, and a joint research project is currently planned.

More than four years have passed since this rocket experiment was proposed and it is now entering the final stage. The scientific instruments were set at the end of July, the motor parts were dispatched in early August, docked in late August through mid September, and the forward section and rocket body were fully incorporated on October 10 and 11. While the rocket caused a lot of concern over many procedural problems, both large and small, up to the very last minute, all the tasks were accomplished, and the rocket left ISAS on the evening of October 13 incorporating equipment such as ground-support equipment. At the time of publication of this newsletter, it is expected that the complex launch operations, such as the rocket-motor coupling, will be in full swing at the site.