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The sky’s the limit: Tempest rocket to measure quality of the air we breathe

In what is thought to be a world’s first, a rocket equipped with air pollution monitoring equipment, which has been developed by scientists at the , is due to be launched on Wednesday 4 February 2015.

As part of a wider air pollution mapping project supported by aerial survey company Bluesky, the pollution monitoring system aims to record how dangerous gases, such as nitrogen dioxide, dissipate with vertical distance from the earth.

The micro sensors will be integrated with other technologies and launched into the atmosphere using ’ Tempest Research Rocket. The launch follows previous work mapping air pollution across entire cities from planes, cars and ground sensors.

The Tempest is a 4.1 metre (14 foot) tall rocket that can reach speeds of up to 200 mph and will hit an altitude of 3,000 feet on this flight before being safely recovered via parachute. In addition to the air pollution monitoring sensors Tempest will also be carrying vital electronic systems that will be used aboard ’s future Space Tourism Rockets, an experimental GPS package and video cameras.

The Tempest Rocket is expected to be launched on 4 February 2015 at 10:30am from Capesthorne Hall, Cheshire, in front of an audience of hundreds of pupils and teachers from more than 30 schools.

Dr Roland Leigh, academic supervisor at the University of said: “Air Quality continues to be a critical issue in our urbanising society, requiring us to explore novel solutions for monitoring, management and damage mitigation. We are grateful to Starchaser Industries for the opportunity to test our novel air quality monitoring techniques as part of this spectacular launch event. This project builds on work to date of Starchaser Industries, key academic expertise in instrument design and data manipulation, and once again benefits from a strong industrial partnership with Bluesky.

“This launch provides an outstanding opportunity to engage the next generation, not only with the excellent rocketry work of Starchaser Industries, but also with the concept of environmental monitoring – a key tool for the ongoing management of our climate.”

James Eddy Bluesky’s Technical Director and Industrial Associate at the University of Leicester, added: “We have already had great success mapping air pollution from an aerial survey plane giving us a better understanding of how dangerous gases, such as nitrogen dioxide, operate in the vertical plane. However, we hope this launch will take air pollution monitoring to another level.”

The latest phase of the Bluesky supported air pollution monitoring project will add to results already obtained from trials of the University of Leicester’s world leading Compact Air Quality Spectrometer. Originally mounted on a dedicated aerial survey aircraft the device monitors visible light and measures how much light is lost at specific wavelengths absorbed by NO2. The technology has previously been used as part the CityScan project with devices mounted on tall buildings in Leicester, Bologna and London during the Olympics to build 3D maps of pollution across the cities.

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Source: University of Leicester