back to article SpaceX blasted massive plasma hole in Earth's ionosphere

A SpaceX rocket ripped a humongous hole in Earth’s ionosphere during a launch in California last year and may have impaired GPS satellites. The Falcon 9 rocket was blasted from Vandenberg Air Force Base on 24 August last year. It was carrying the Formosat-5, an Earth observation satellite, built by the Taiwan’s National Space …

Yawn

This GPS effect happens to a greater degree with other events as well, and the only reason the big shockwave happened this time was the satellite needed a more vertical trajectory. Most fly with a more horizontal trajectory, pitching over shortly aftrr launch.

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Re: Yawn

The unusual trajectory was noted in the article.

The implications for the future come from a combination of more rocket launches and greater use of GPS.

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Re: Yawn

Surely in the future we'll have a space elevator and rocket launches will be a thing of the past...

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Re: Yawn

Space Elevators push the limits of what materials are theoretically capable of - and without a safety factor (typically 3x for bridges, 1.5 for aircraft).

It's pleasing that such structures were considered by Buckminster Fuller, and after his death his name was given to the class of materials that come closest to making Space Elevators possible. If we could get the materials, the construction would still require a lot of rocket launches - at least until we can gather and fabricate material in space.

Still, The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C Clarke is a good read (and the author's notes a good background on those who first conceived of the idea) and Feersum Enjinn by Iain M Banks is just staggering.

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Re: Yawn Space elevators

And the space elevator tether will knock all the satellites out!

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Re: Yawn Space elevators

Well put a little man on the end and have him sweep up the mess - one way of removing the wreckage (lots of it) out there.

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Re: Yawn

Who knows what effect a bloody great cable going all the way through the atmosphere would have on the ionosphere?

And as others have mentioned, Arthur C. Clarke's book The Fountains of Paradise is well worth a read.

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Re: Yawn

I always thought an active structure is a better way we can build a space elevator than just relying on materials...

plus it could be built from the ground up, no need to launch rockets with all the materials first.

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Meh

Re: Yawn

"Disruptions in the ionosphere are to be expected for every rocket launch and are also detected during volcano blasts and solar flares."

And don't forget meteorites. Those that are large enough to hit the ground most likely create the same KINDS of "problems" in the ionosphere.

The *EARTH* is *NOT* *THAT* *FRAGILE*. And _natural_ processes do the SAME THING, and usually to a greater extent than ANYTHING humans can do. I mean, seriously, ONE ROCKET did "all that" ? I have my doubts!

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Re: Yawn

I think the tone of the article is that the effect was somewhat unexpected so we should aim lots of scientific instruments at the next launch to see why our modeling was wrong.

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Space Fountain!

The great advantage is that we could build one with today's technology.

The great disadvantage is that it collapses if you turn off the power.

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Re: Yawn

@Dave126

'Feersum Enjinn by Iain M Banks is just staggering.'

nd vry difcult to reed....

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Re: Bombasticisms

Did the article say the earth was permanently damaged? It did say that GPS readings were slightly affected. No big deal, except maybe for all of the precision measurements that were taken under the 'hole'. I know that if I had been surveying some affected area during that time I would be obliged to go out and at least check my measurements, just for insurance purposes.

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Re: Space Fountain!

"The great advantage is that we could build one with today's technology."

We could build a Lofstrom loop too.

"The great disadvantage is that it collapses if you turn off the power."

Ditto

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Re: Yawn

The *EARTH* is *NOT* *THAT* *FRAGILE*.

When people assert this as if it's an iron-clad fact, I'm always reminded of the people who said we could never run out of passenger pigeons, because God would never let one of his creations go extinct.

(This particular effect, though, does seem to be no big deal except for radio services. It's probably worth learning more about, though, so we can anticipate it for other big launches.)

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Re: Yawn

Not if your dyslexic

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SAW?

I don't know...probably just me, and it being a Friday and all but surely it should be ASW, as in Acoustic Shock Waves rather than SAW...it just doesn't read right.

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Re: SAW?

Doesn't SAW usually stand for surface acoustic wave?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Doesn't SAW usually stand for surface acoustic wave?

Someone will be along in a minute to claim it means "Social Action Warrior"

SAW has superceeded "SJW", because "justice" is, er, I dunno, a word loaded with outdated reactionary moral value judgements, or something. :-)

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Re: SAW?

Note that for naming the ionospheric response of the shock wave, the literature uses terminology incorporating a different physical interpretation, among them the term ‘shock-acoustic wave’ (SAW) (Nagorsky, 1998).

[SOURCE]

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Re: SAW?

@Brewster

Ahh...thank you for that. That missing hyphon makes it look much better and more readable.

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Re: SAW?

SAW usually for stands Anti Submarine Warfare. (Sorry, this subject on-brings my lexdixia.)

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Coat

"The particularly large circular size of the shock wave"

So it was a circular-SAW ?

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Joke

Re: "The particularly large circular size of the shock wave"

..and if you were watching it happen it'd be a see-SAW.

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Re: "The particularly large circular size of the shock wave"

I saw what you did there...

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Windows

Re: "The particularly large circular size of the shock wave"

Or SAW is equally a Squad Assault Weapon, a particularly handy thing to have when you aren't sure what you're going to find when you get there...wherever THERE is. Luckily that device's propellants don't need any extra oxygen.

But in free-fall, you'd better have a leg wrapped around a stanchion when you pull the trigger. And be prepared to re-adjust your position after you release the trigger.

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Devil

Really caused by red Lectroids

They're upset that Lord John Whorfin is loose again...

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Re: Really caused by red Lectroids

Blue Blaze Irregulars in the Golden State have been mobilized. Reno and Perfect Tommy are heading up the strike team. Once the situation is contained, the Hong Kong Cavaliers are supposed to play the Palladium.

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So the rocket wasn't guided by GPS?

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Disturbances in the wash (Eddies in the space-time continuum)

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/950420-i-have-detected-he-said-disturbances-in-the-wash

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El Reg Standard Handbook

Interesting read here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Many-Molehills-Mountain-Marcus-Weeks/dp/190733226X

Although Sheep in a Vacuum and Norris's do not seem to be in the updated edition.

DaveA

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And this is why Musk wants to send us to Mars (and beyond) - it's his flipping rockets wiping out the ozone layer, making it lethal to live on the surface.

Bah humbug !!! Why doesn't he do something useful like invent electric spaceships.

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Anonymous Coward

OMG!!

So in summary, nothing happened.

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Interesting

I've never heard of the Advancing Earth and Space Science Journal before. Neither has Wikipedia. Or my search engine.

I think I'll wash a grain of salt down with some GMO Berkeley beer.

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Re: Interesting

Hmm... I think the Editor may have glossed over that a bit too quickly. The actual journal appears to be Space Weather from the American Geophysical Union. "Advancing Earth and Space Science" is simply a tagline on their website.

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Anonymous Coward

Satellites allegedly impaired

From article:

>A SpaceX rocket ripped a humongous hole in Earth’s ionosphere during a launch in California last year and may have impaired GPS satellites.

Really? How were the satellites impaired? I can see that satellite receiver models of the ionospheric propagation model were impaired resulting in reduced accuracy but that is not what the article states. And was not then not corrected by SBAS? And will the satellites recover in the view of The Reg?

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Facepalm

So in summary...

Thing punching hole through ionosphere, punches hole in ionosphere.

Ionosphere recovers within hours, like it does every time something punches a hole in it.

GPS *SIGNALS MAY* have been affected, although no study was actually done to measure the actual effect on GPS signals.

...

Slow news day?

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Coat

More like the I...OH NO... sphere.

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Unusual trajectory

Why was the trajectory unusually vertical?

The satellite required a near-polar orbit, but it still needed to obtain orbital speed, so one would think that building that speed early to reduce gravity drag would be important.

Was the desire to recover the booster a factor?

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Thumb Up

Re: Unusual trajectory

ROOSTA:

They’re not. They’re taking the building!

[Sound of air whoosing past the building]

ZAPHOD:

Wha-what have I done to deserve this? I walk into a building…they take it away.

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Slx
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I've always thought that the best approach would be to float something up to the edge of the atmosphere then have a much smaller rocket blast to get it out into space.

Using huge rockets just seems unnecessarily crude.

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Anonymous Coward

This is a interesting idea! Surely they must have considered this... wonder why they don't do this?

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Anonymous Coward

Like the B52s carrying the X15 up before launch? I believe Paul Allen just wheeled out his humongous prototype for taxi tests. And of course, it's also been done with the venture Branson is now(?) selling tickets for.

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"I've always thought that the best approach would be to float something up to the edge of the atmosphere then have a much smaller rocket blast to get it out into space."

You still need to reach "escape velocity" although having used say a large helium balloon to get to the brink of the atmosphere, you wouldn't in principle then need as big a rocket to go the final few km.

But you'd still have to accelerate much more quickly to reach the required velocity and that might put larger G forces on the payload.

Time might also be an issue as it will take longer for a balloon to "float" up to the required altitude and it will be dependant on wind speed too - as you wouldn't want it in the wrong place so it cannot achieve the correct orbit or geostationary position. Also, I guess the helium would be lost so that would be a cost issue?

Of course Virgin Galactic are still planning to use a larger "mothership" to fly a smaller passenger craft up to the edge of the atmos.

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Besides other things mentioned, I guess it would rule out the use of cryogenic propellants such as liquid oxygen. By the time, you got the rocket up to height, it'd be covered in ice and a lot of propellant would have boiled of

Also, recovering the rocket and payload if there was an aborted launch would be a problem.

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Most of the energy that you need to impart to a satellite is kinetic, not potential. The "gh" term for something raised to low earth orbit is smaller (2.5 * 10^6 for 250km altitude) than the the ½v² term for orbital speed (about 25 * 10^6 for 7km/s). Consequently, that "smaller rocket" will be 90% of the size of what we use now.

Floating a thousand tons of rocket fuel a few kilometres into the air would require you to displace a few thousand tons of air, to get the bouyancy. Air is about 1kg per cubic metre, so that's quite a big balloon, no matter what you fill it with.

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Out of curiosity, did you factor air resistance into that calculation? I ask because I was ball-parking (with estimates because I'm too lazy to actually do the math) around 75-80%. Which, when you factor in the cost of helium, would still make it not really worthwhile. We could use hydrogen as our lifting gas, which would be much cheaper, but a hydrogen balloon that stands a good chance of being in the exhaust of a rocket engine just seems like a bad idea.

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Paris Hilton

Wasn't that pretty much what LOHAN is supposed to do? (If she ever gets off)

Paris because the reg had been there before.

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Maybe Skylon space plane is what you are looking for.

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Boffin

but a hydrogen balloon that stands a good chance of being in the exhaust of a rocket engine just seems like a bad idea.

Not quite. The hydrogen is not pre-mixed with oxygen in any way so it will combust instead of explode, which will be a much less violent event (see: Hindenburg, but without the passengers). Also, it will happen in a thin atmosphere, so little oxygen for the hydrogen to react with. I expect the combustion to run out of oxygen locally and extinguish before all the hydrogen has burned, with the remainder of the hydrogen dispersed in the upper atmosphere.

That is, if you manage to get it up this way, anyway.

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