AUG 00] UNIVERSITY OF WARWICK NEWS
Professor Sees Work Head Off Into Space
A Warwick university
professor is going to watch 10 years of her work take off into the
The secrets of
turbulence and its effect on drilling for oil, sending messages to
submarines and the design of planes could move a step forward with the
cluster satellites Rumba and Tango.
should be launched from Kazakhstan just after noon, and will then head
out about a quarter of the way to the moon, and settle into orbit.
The timing is
critical as they have to meet up with two others launched last month,
and they could end up in orbit together for between two and four
The scheme is very
technical for most people to understand, but then this is rocket
The professor will be
watching the take-off via a video link in London. Prof Sandra Chapman
is hoping the second launch tomorrow will be as successful as the
previous one in July.
But four years ago,
she saw her work explode as the Ariane rocket was blown up after
take-off. The rocket was malfunctioning and would have crashed, so an
engineer pushed a button.
That blew the rocket
up taking million of pounds of work by Prof Chapman and others went up
in smoke in French Guinea.
She is more confident
of a successful launch tomorrow, but more nervy of a successful link
up with the satellites already launched.
Earlier this year she
became Warwick University’s first female professor of physics. She
has been at Warwick five years and thinks the research created by the
data coming down from the satellite should keep her busy for anther
Prof Chapman said:
work is part of the ESA (European Space Agency) and we are actually
ahead of the Americans in this field.
“I am about 95
per cent sure that the launch will go ahead Ok, but it is whether it
meets up together with the satellites already launched that could be
a problem. There is extra fuel on board to correct the problem, but
we want to save fuel if we can to keep it going for longer.”
She will be working
with colleagues in Sheffield and France to analyse the data.
Prof Chapman drew a
comparison with watching four corks bobbing about on the water to
watch the effect of turbulence and the height of waves and how they
interact with each other.
explained that turbulence around the earth can affect drilling for
oil, communications sent to ships on the other side of the globe by
bouncing signals off the ionosphere, and the design of aircrafts –
and all these could all benefit from the research.
Some of the data will
be converted to make a virtual reality record of the results.
Prof Chapman said:
“It is a just a
shame that some of the key people won’t be around to see the
results. It takes a long time to get these going, and then a long
time to look at the results, and some people won’t be here to see
how it all works out.”
The information will
be used to further information on chaotic behaviour in astroplasmas,
models of extreme events such as solar flare and and the behaviour of
the Earth’s electromagnetic tail.