Detection and modelling of the ionospheric perturbation caused by a Space Shuttle launch using a network of ground-based Global Positioning System stations

Citation:
Bowling, T, Calais E, Haase JS.  2013.  Detection and modelling of the ionospheric perturbation caused by a Space Shuttle launch using a network of ground-based Global Positioning System stations. Geophysical Journal International. 192:1324-1331.

Date Published:

Mar

Keywords:

acoustic-gravity waves, atmosphere interactions, biases, dense gps array, earthquakes, gravity-waves, ionosphere, lower atmosphere, middle, propagation, thermosphere, wave

Abstract:

The exhaust plume of the Space Shuttle during its ascent triggers acoustic waves which propagate through the atmosphere and induce electron density changes at ionospheric heights which changes can be measured using ground-based Global Positioning System (GPS) phase data. Here, we use a network of GPS stations to study the acoustic wave generated by the STS-125 Space Shuttle launch on May 11, 2009. We detect the resulting changes in ionospheric electron density, with characteristics that are typical of acoustic waves triggered by explosions at or near the Earth's surface or in the atmosphere. We successfully reproduce the amplitude and timing of the observed signal using a ray-tracing model with a moving source whose amplitude is directly scaled by a physical model of the shuttle exhaust energy, acoustic propagation in a dispersive atmosphere and a simplified two-fluid model of collisions between neutral gas and free electrons in the ionosphere. The close match between observed and model waveforms validates the modelling approach. This raises the possibility of using ground-based GPS networks to estimate the acoustic energy release of explosive sources near the Earth's surface or in atmosphere, and to constrain some atmospheric acoustic parameters.

Notes:

n/a

Website

DOI:

10.1093/gji/ggs101