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  • Letter
  • Open Access

Ionospheric hole behind an ascending rocket observed with a dense GPS array

Earth, Planets and Space200860:BF03352786

  • Received: 3 September 2007
  • Accepted: 18 December 2007
  • Published:


An ascending liquid-fuel rocket is known to make a hole in the ionosphere, or localized electron depletion, by leaving behind large amounts of neutral molecules (e.g. water) in the exhaust plume. Such a hole was made by the January 24, 2006 launch of an H-IIA rocket from Tanegashima, Southwestern Japan, and here we report its observation with a dense array of Global Positioning System receivers as a sudden and temporary decrease of total electron content. The observed disturbances have been compared with a simple numerical model incorporating the water diffusion and chemical reactions in the ionosphere. The substantial vanishing of the ionosphere lasted more than one hour, suggesting its application as a window for ground-based radio astronomical observations at low frequencies.

Key words

  • GPS
  • ionospheric hole
  • rocket launch
  • total electron content
  • radio astronomy