Rocket/Radar Sporadic-E Experiment Conducted during the El Coqui 2 Campaign
ABSTRACT In order to investigate the complex electrodynamics and neutral-plasma coupling inherent to sporadic-E layers in the earth's mid-latitude ionosphere, a series of rocket/radar experiments were planned as part of the NASA El Coqui H Campaign from Tortuguero Launch Range, Puerto Rico, in March-April, 1998. The rocket experiments consisted of two pairs of "mother-daughter" payloads with limited apogees so that the payloads "hovered" in the sporadic-E region (95-125 km). Each payload pair included vector DC and AC electric field detectors, a highly accurate flux-gate DC magnetometer, an ion mass spectrometer, an ionization gauge, and spaced-electric field receivers to measure the wavelength and phase velocity of the unstable plasma waves. Separate rockets were included to simultaneously carry aloft TMA trails to measure the neutral wind and its velocity shear, believed responsible for the sporadic-E layer formation. In addition to the rocket experiments, incoherent scatter radar measurements of plasma density and drift velocity were gathered almost every night during the 3 week campaign. Continuous VHF backscatter radar operations were carried out from a site near Salinas, Puerto Rico, where 3-m backscatter echoes were observed associated with sporadic-E and other types of low altitude ionospheric layers. Other radars that operated during the campaign included an HF backscatter system near Ponce, Puerto Rico, and a second VHF backscatter radar set up near Aguadila Puerto Rico. On 24 March 1998, one of the instrumented rockets was launched, attaining an apogee of 129 km. The payloads successfully pierced an intense sporadic-E layer observed by both the Arecibo radar and the in-situ density and ion mass spectrometer probes. In-situ DC electric fields revealed very low (about 1-2 mV/m) ambient fields with small amplitude structures of the same order. No high frequency (short scale) waves were observed, consistent with the VHF backscatter observations at the time of the launch. An overview of the observations will be presented.