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

TitleDetection and modelling of the ionospheric perturbation caused by a Space Shuttle launch using a network of ground-based Global Positioning System stations
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsBowling T, Calais E, Haase JS
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Volume192
Pagination1324-1331
Date Published2013/03
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0956-540X
Accession NumberWOS:000315051300033
KeywordsAcoustic-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.

DOI10.1093/gji/ggs101
Student Publication: 
No