Skip to Main Content
The in-flight engine firing of solid rocket motors in the ionosphere produces an artificial dusty plasma. Optical emissions of sunlight scattered from the dust particles yield measurements of the dust location and flow velocities. Charging by ambient ionospheric electrons of the particulates yields dust particles that stream across the magnetic field lines. These exhaust particles initiate plasma turbulence in the ionosphere that can scatter radar waves. If the exhaust cloud itself passes over in situ particle or plasma wave detectors, measurements can be made of increased dusty plasma wave turbulence and plasma densities. To demonstrate long-range detection of rocket engine burns in the ionosphere, the Charged Aerosol Release Experiment (CARE I) was conducted in September 2009. Optical observations from CARE I provided measurements of both the dust particle distributions and the interactions of the molecular component of the rocket exhaust in the ionosphere.