Poker Flat Research Range Behind the Scenes Tour

We had an opportunity to visit the Poker Flat Research Range facilities during their 50th year anniversary. They have put out flyers to invite the community to come out 30 miles away from town on Steese highway to celebrate the 50th year of Poker Flat Rocket Research Range with them.

decals of Poker Flat, Geophysical Institute, UAF, NASA

flier for behind the scene tour of the Poker Flat
The flier that was posted at my workplace.
50th Year Celebration at Poker Flat Research Range
The world's only university-owned rocket range

The Drive

There was a free bus ride from University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF)to Poker Flat Research Range but when I called them to make a reservations, the buses were already booked. So,  my husband, my son, and I decided we drive there instead. The road was great, barely had any snow on the road but it was dark out though. Still winter!

Rocket at the main gate of Poker Flat Research Range
Rocket at the main gate of Poker Flat Research Range


Of course it was a popular event that night. When we arrived at the Poker Flat Research Range, the parking lot was full. They even made an overflow parking area and it was full, good thing we found a spot.

Poker Flat Research Range Facilities

The Admin Center

The first building we got into is the Admin Center. They have a lot of informational stuff as well as popcorn. There was a lot of people inside, so crowded, we didn't stay long. 

We then went outside to wait for transportation to take us to the upper range facilities. The line was long and we were told they did not anticipate to have this many people show up there.

Long line to get in the vehicle to start the tour
Long line waiting for the ride up to upper facilities

The Blockhouse and Launch Pad 3

While waiting in line, one of the personnel approached us and offered us to show the Blockhouse and Launch Pad 3. My family and I left our space on the long line and joined them for a short walk there.

The Blockhouse
The BlockHouse 
Where control panels are located

Inside the Blockhouse is where the button is located for launching rockets
This is where the buttons are located for launching a rocket

Alan the boy touching the rocket tip
Alan's touching the tip of the rocket at the Launch Pad 3

It was interesting to see the launch pad, the rocket, and the building (Blockhouse) where the buttons are located to launch a rocket. It was cold but it was nice little walk to that facilities. 

After the tour there, we then walked back to the end of the long line. My husband waited in line, while my son and I went to Weather Balloon building. It was so interesting to see how the weather balloons work.

Weather Balloon 

A weather balloon, also known as sounding balloon, is a balloon (specifically a type of high-altitude balloon) that carries instruments aloft to send back information on atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity and wind speed by means of a small, expendable measuring device called a radiosonde.  This information if from From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The weather balloons are so fascinating especially to Alan the boy
Alan can't get enough of this weather balloons. He wanted to take one home.

She's blowing up a weather balloon
Blowing up the weather balloon and launched every 15 minutes or so


We waited for about 2 hours in line outside, brrr below freezing and there was little breeze. At one time we were told that they may not be able to take us all because of the timeframe. 

They only have 3 Vans I believe and can only take 12 people at a time each and it will take 20 minutes to get back down.  However, after few minutes of waiting, we were told again that they will try to accommodate us all.

UAF Police Car helping transport people for behind the scenes tour
UAF Police also helped transporting people up to upper range facilities

Van with load of people going to upper range facilities
Van - transportation to Upper Range Facilities

The employees and organizers there were great and just had great  attitude. Even though it was a long night, they stayed and accommodated us.  The UAF patrol officer even used his vehicle to transport people. My family and I were picked up by another employees who were on their way up there. They dropped us off  at Lidar Laser Lab. We then hopped on a van to Telemetry building, then to Neal Davis Science Operation Center.

Lidar Laser Lab

Lidar Laser Lab
Lidar Laser Lab 

The following pictures below (with green lights) were taken inside the Lidar Laser lab building

The green laser light

Inside the Lidar Laser Lab

The Laser light

The laser light

The Laser Light
The powerful Laser beam

Alan moved the Lidar
Alan moved the Lidar
it was so cool!

Alan's certificate for operating the lidar
Alan's certificate for operating the lidar

Telemetry Building

It's they track their rockets and the data from the rockets

Telemetry Building
Telemetry Building

Inside Telemetry Building
Inside Telemetry Building

Three dishes by the Telemetry building
Three dishes by the Telemetry building

  • Neal Davis Science Operation Center

We didn't get to see a lot of the presentations nor the party at Neal Davis Science Operation Center due to we got there a little late. There are some cake and refreshments left but that's pretty much it.

Star constellations and what they mean to different cultures
He was showing us the stars constellations and what they mean to different cultures around the world.

Print of beautiful Aurora's by Northern Light Photography
We also got to talked to Sacha Layos with Northern Light photography

Flyer of Poker Flat Research Range
One of the plier I picked up and I think it's so cool.
Poker Flat Research Range
The nation's only high-latitude rocket range
Poker Flat launches scientific sounding rockets and provides ground-based research instrumentation tailored for the Arctic. Sounding rockets are used to study the aurora, Earth's upper atmosphere, and the sun.  

It was 12:55am when we finally left Poker Flat Research Range. 

Overall, it was a great experience and unique opportunity to visit Poker Flat Research for behind the scenes tour. Happy 50th Anniversary!

For more information about the facility please visit

Please continue to join me in my journey to blogging from A to Z for this month of April. 

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