HF Propagation Effects Caused by an Artificial Plasma Cloud in the Ionosphere
Monday, 15 December 2014
In a campaign carried out by the NASA sounding rocket team, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) launched two sounding rockets in the Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands, in May 2013 known as the Metal Oxide Space Cloud (MOSC) experiment to study the interactions of artificial ionization and the background plasma and measure the effects on high frequency (HF) radio wave propagation. The rockets released samarium metal vapor in the lower F-region of the ionosphere that ionized forming a plasma cloud that persisted for tens of minutes to hours in the post-sunset period. Data from the experiments has been analyzed to understand the impacts of the artificial ionization on HF radio wave propagation. Swept frequency HF links transiting the artificial ionization region were employed to produce oblique ionograms that clearly showed the effects of the samarium cloud. Ray tracing has been used to successfully model the effects of the ionized cloud. Comparisons between observations and modeled results will be presented, including model output using the International Reference Ionosphere (IRI), the Parameterized Ionospheric Model (PIM) and PIM constrained by electron density profiles measured with the ALTAIR radar at Kwajalein. Observations and modeling confirm that the cloud acted as a divergent lens refracting energy away from direct propagation paths and scattering energy at large angles relative to the initial propagation direction. The results confirm that even small amounts of ionized material injected in the upper atmosphere can result in significant changes to the natural propagation environment.