Holey Ionosphere Batman

There is recent evidence that recent space launches such as the ones by SpaceX may have punched holes in the Ionosphere, especially if rocket engines are still full active at 150-220 miles above the surface. The Ionosphere is an area of electrically charged particles that range from about 30-600 miles about the earth’s surface and is mainly know for the ability to bounce radio signals. This is not a new phenomenon, but with rocket launches becoming more common it is happening at a greater rate.

The most important part of the Ionosphere for radio or skywave propagation and reflection seems to be at about 200 miles up in an area that seems to consist of almost exclusively thin oxygen, before being more nitrogen and after, helium. Before and after this layer the passthrough rate of signals seems quite high, so it looks like oxygen is the driver for radio effect, but it may be that ozone (O3) proportion may be more important than total concentration if no other gasses are present or are rare, molecule to molecule reflection.

The early transmissions of radio Luxembourg and Moscow, where close by radio transmissions could be heard in Eindhoven and Gorky, showed an indication that this layer can be affected by radio waves and the American HAARP project used what was because of this known as the ‘Luxembourg-Gorky effect’ to use cross modulation of radio multiple radio waves to affect electromagnetic conductivity in the Ionosphere and its characteristics. This self-amplification and other amplification due to changes in conductance is well known and conforms to similar principles as the refraction of light.

The main effect was 2-3 hours, but probably was significant for twice this period, at the moment quite trivial, but with increasing numbers it may not stay this way.

Most radio depends on the ability for this layer to reflect radio signals back to earth, transmissions having shorter or longer distance depending on this, but with the advent of digital signals, especially things like digital radio and digital TV, which are dependent on a constant flow and intensity, it may dramatically increase such transmission losses resulting in things like increased pixilation on Freeview and digital radio outages.

As satellite pushes straight through from above, the holes may increase the signal intensity giving a greater variability in signal strength, a bit like clear holes in sunglasses but has the possibility to therefore disrupt things like GPS signals. Inertial and gyroscopic guidance is not always very consistent, and if you suddenly find your self-drive car thinking it is up to 20 feet away from where it actually is, people might notice.

At the moment rocket launches are few and far between, but with commercialisation more trivial launches and increases in the problem may become common.

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