A lot of radio amateurs bemoaning the recent spate of poor HF conditions would love to have a way to improve propagation — perhaps without even having to rely on the whims of the Sun. The US Department of Defense is thinking along the same lines. An August 9 article in New Scientist reports that the US Air Force is exploring a plan to bombard Earth’s upper atmosphere with ionized gas dispersed from CubeSats. According to the New Scientist article by David Hambling, the Air Force hopes to improve long-distance radio communication by “detonating plasma bombs” in the upper atmosphere, and the military branch has contracted with corporate and university researchers to figure out how to make this a reality.
The US Air Force is no stranger to ionospheric tinkering, having just last year transferred the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Project (HAARP) facility to the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), which hopes to restart it next year. HAARP’s super-power RF in the high-frequency spectrum has been used stimulate the ionosphere and create a plasma cloud that could support HF radio propagation; it also has been used to study how the ionosphere functions.
The trick with using CubeSats to disperse ionizing gas above Earth is coming up with a plasma generator small enough to fit within a CubeSat and controlling how the plasma will disperse. New Scientist said General Sciences of Souderton, Pennsylvania, and Enig Associates of Bethesda, Maryland, are working with scientists at Drexel University and at the University of Maryland, respectively, on separate methods to produce plasma.
An August 9 article in Philly Voice by Michael Tannenbaum said the nearly $150,000 contract with General Sciences and Drexel University proposes to develop a plasma gas generation device “based on the use of highly exothermic condensed phase reactions yielding temperatures considerably higher than the boiling points of candidate metal elements with residual energy to maximize their vapor yield and, with high probability to enter associative ionization (chemi-ionization) reactions with atmospheric oxygen,” the research Abstract explains. The Abstract says researchers also will explore hardware development for controlled-release options. The benefit, according to the Abstract? “New ways of communication will become available to [the Department of Defense] with significant benefits to the defense of the country.”
For its part, Enig Associates has announced that its collaboration with the University of Maryland will lead to “an innovative and novel electrical approach, using in-house designed explosive-driven flux compression generators to convert explosive chemical energy into electromagnetic energy with very high current output and superb energy conversion efficiency.” The researchers will aim to design “an integrated generator device whose form factor fits inside an air-launched vehicle or sounding rocket.”
The New Scientist article said the better approach will be selected for a second phase, which will involve testing plasma generators in vacuum chambers and exploratory space flights.
A Cygnus resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on April 11 also delivered three CubeSats of the BIRDS-3 constellation and three ot... Read more
With an eye toward helping new and inexperienced hams enjoy the full range of activities that Amateur Radio has to offer, Hamvention® and the ARRL 201... Read more
ARRL and the FCC have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that paves the way to implement the new and enhanced Volunteer Monitor program. The m... Read more
ARRL is rolling back Outgoing QSL Bureau rates to 2011 levels. Effective May 15, 2019, the new rates will be: $2 for 10 or fewer cards in one envelope... Read more
Owen Garriott The US astronaut who pioneered the use of Amateur Radio to make contacts from space — Owen K. Garriott, W5LFL — died April 15 at his hom... Read more
Thursday, April 18, is World Amateur Radio Day (WARD), this year marking the 94th anniversary of the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU), founded... Read more
In April 12, ARRL will conduct the Frequency Measuring Test (FMT), a tradition that dates back to 1931. In that era, prospective participants were pro... Read more
The bidding has begun in the Out of This World ARISS Auction, which wraps up on April 14 at 2200 UTC. A new JVC Kenwood TS-890S is attracting many bid... Read more