It is rocket science: Poker Flat researchers talk about life on the range

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Fairbanks is located next to the world's largest land- based rocket research range...
And this year, scientists from NASA came to launch rockets through Alaska's sky.
Here's more in this report from Katie Luper...
Katie Luper; Reporting>>: Poker Flat is located 30 miles north of Fairbanks, and despite common misconceptions, out there, it's mainly rocket science.
Earlier this year, the Poker Flat crew, various researchers and NASA scientists launched four rockets through the sky like a bow and arrow. These relatively low cost sounding rockets study the dynamics and chemistry of the upper atmosphere.
After a series holds, built in pauses for safety checks, comes the final go/no go poll...if it's a go, Kathy starts the countdown...
Upper atmospheric and aurora science
Poker crew, researchers from the geophysical institute and a group of NASA scientists and researchers
The NASA crew usually comes up a few weeks in advance
Instead of buying commercial motors, they save money by using military surplus motors.
From this site, rockets can launch and fly over the sparsely populated tundra hundreds of miles north of the range with special permission from federal, state and tribal landowners
Poker Flats is just off the Old Steese Highway and around the corner from Chatanika Lodge.
Yet, both the range managers, Kathe Rich and Robert Valdez, say many people don't realize what they actually do there.
Kathe Rich; Range Mananger>>: "It's kind of surprising, there are a lot of people who have been born and raised, they haven't got a clue that we exist."
Robert Valdez; Assistant Range Manager and Operations Officer>>: "A lot of people got misconceptions that we're harboring UFO's or aliens, we got none of that. It's all research, it's all science, and out here, it's all rocket-science."
Katie Luper; Reporting>>: Poker Flats was developed in the 1960's but every year new scientists come and reinvigorate the field.
They launch rockets into the upper levels of the atmosphere to study the auroras.
However, they don't send the rockets into orbit; instead they shoot them through the sky like a bow and arrow.
Kaz Alvarez; Student Assistant and Tour Guide>>: "We have researchers coming up from the lower 48, from other countries to do their research here, because it's a very unique place, we're perfectly situated at a latitude to do this research."
Katie Luper; Reporting>>: From this perfect site, Kaz showed the tour group where they launch the rockets from.
With special permission and permits, they can send rockets hundreds of miles north into the tundra.
And they have a 100 percent retrieval rate.
So when locals are out flying, hunting or hiking they can retrieve the missing sections.
Kathe Rich; Range Mananger>>: "If they do find rocket parts, there is a 1200 dollar per piece reward, for large pieces."
Katie Luper; Reporting>>: Sometime between January and March they set up a three week window to launch.
Researchers stay in a concrete blockhouse, covered with several feet of dirt, all night in order to launch during perfect conditions.
Kathe Rich; Range Mananger>>: "So we sit ten minutes in holding, waiting for the perfect scientific conditions to appear, or not appear as cases may be."
Katie Luper; Reporting>>: Reporting from Poker Flat, I'm Katie Luper.