Tech

July 23, 2012

AFRL experiment will create artificial ionosphere

by Michael P. Kleiman
Kirtland AFB, N.M.

A samarium cloud similar to the one that will be formed during the Metal Oxide Space Cloud experiment in the ionosphere above the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Two separate sounding rockets will propel canisters containing samarium powder following launch one day apart from U.S. Army’s Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, Kwajalein Atoll. Liftoff is tentatively scheduled for September 2012.

On successive days in September, a pair of two-stage sounding rockets will lift off from the U.S. Army’s Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, Kwajalein Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands, with each launch vehicle carrying a canister of samarium powder to its appointed trajectory over the Pacific Ocean.

Within minutes after departing the island, the dust payload will exit one rocket at 118 miles high and the other will be deposited 81 miles up.

After being jettisoned into the ionosphere, located in the upper atmosphere from 50 to 400 miles above the Earth’s surface, the particles will form a plasma cloud, from which scientists of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate will obtain data from employing transmitters at two atolls and receivers at five separate isles.

“The two transmitters will send radio waves into the cloud, which will act like a miniature ionosphere. We should get a bounce of the signal off the cloud, depending on how dense it is. The cloud will create an artificial ionosphere and the signal will bounce off of both the real and artificial ionospheres,” said Dr. Todd Pedersen, senior research physicist, AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate. “During the Metal Oxide Space Cloud experiment, we will measure where the cloud is and how dense it is. We will also be studying the effects of naturally occurring disturbances in the ionosphere with multiple-directions looks (east-west and north-south passes). The ionosphere is not always a nice smooth line – there are often disturbances.”

Ionospheric turbulence can cause scintillation, which disrupts ground and satellite communication. Information generated from the $3 million MOSC trial will be applied to models for scientists to study the possibility of remediating the detrimental impacts of disturbances in the ionosphere on radio wave propagation.

“Our primary goal of the MOSC mission is to diagnose the cloud, but the long-term ambition is to examine whether we can artificially induce such a cloud to potentially prevent these naturally occurring disturbances from developing. What happens is that in the equatorial region you have a seasonal effect on communication – disturbances that develop in the ionosphere in the nighttime hours that can cause scintillation,” said Ron Caton, research physicist, and principle investigator on the MOSC experiment, AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate. “For example, you have someone on the ground trying to communicate with a satellite and the signal is being disturbed as it passes through the ionosphere, similar to watching light scatter through water.”

Although research for the MOSC experiment has spanned the past decade, on-site preparation for the mission began in earnest in June 2011, after a Mission Initiation Conference at NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va. With launch of both rockets tentatively scheduled for September 2012, the mission team is planning for placement of ground sensors, imagers and receivers, which has involved visits to four different atolls in the Marshall Islands. Caton recently traveled from Kwajalein to Rongelap, Likiep and Wotho Atolls on a 69-foot boat, with each leg of the trip taking approximately 18-20 hours.

“After being on the boat for so many hours, the team would get out to conduct the site survey in a short time, and then it was back on the water for the multi-hour trip to the next atoll,” Caton said. “On the first night out, it got pretty rough, with 7- to 10-foot swells. I slept on the deck floor. It was definitely an interesting experience.”

Mission partners include the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s Space Test Program and the NASA Wallops Flight Facility. The former is funding the two sounding rockets and the latter is providing them.

“If the MOSC experiment is successful, the next step would be to investigate our ability to introduce such a cloud in the proper location to short out the electric fields that lead to these disturbances that occur naturally,” said Caton. “If we can artificially create this layer under the appropriate conditions, we have taken a huge step toward actively mitigating potential scintillation activity and ultimately enhancing war fighter communication.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines November 24, 2014

News: Hagel said to be stepping down as defense chief under pressure - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down under pressure, the first cabinet-level casualty of President Obama’s Democratic majority in the Senate and a beleaguered national security team that has struggled to stay ahead of an onslaught of global crises. Afghan mission for U.S....
 
 

News Briefs November 24, 2014

Fog forces five U.S. choppers to land in Polish field Officials say that that fog forced five U.S. Army helicopters to make an emergency landing in a Polish field and spend the night there, the second such incident since September. The U.S. Army said 15 soldiers were moving equipment to their base in Germany Nov....
 
 
Air Force photograph by Samuel King Jr.

Navy’s first F-35C squadron surpasses 1,000 flight hours

Air Force photograph by Samuel King Jr. An F-35C Lightning II aircraft piloted by Lt. Cmdr. Chris Tabert, assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101, flies the squadron’s first local sortie. The F-35C is the carrier va...
 

 
boeing-SC-787

Boeing South Carolina begins final assembly of its first 787-9 Dreamliner

Boeing has started final assembly of the 787-9 Dreamliner at its South Carolina facility. The team began joining large fuselage sections of the newest 787 Nov. 22 on schedule, a proud milestone for the South Carolina team and a...
 
 
Lockheed Martin image

Ball Aerospace equips Orion mission with key avionics, antenna hardware

Lockheed Martin image Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. is providing the phased array antennas and flight test cameras to prime contractor Lockheed Martin for Orion’s Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), which is an u...
 
 

Salina, Kansas, recalls anniversary of shuttered base

It has been 50 years this month since the announcement that Schilling Air Force Base was closing rattled Salina residents. The Salina Journal, which carried news of the closure in its Nov. 19, 1964, editions, reported that the economic disaster then spared no part of the community – real estate, retail, civic involvement, church attendance,...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>