Rocket in situ observation of equatorial plasma irregularities in the region between E and F layers over Brazil
Abstract. A two-stage VS-30 Orion rocket was launched from the equatorial rocket launching station in Alcântara, Brazil, on 8 December 2012 soon after sunset (19:00 LT), carrying a Langmuir probe operating alternately in swept and constant bias modes. At the time of launch, ground equipment operated at equatorial stations showed rapid rise in the base of the F layer, indicating the pre-reversal enhancement of the F region vertical drift and creating ionospheric conditions favorable for the generation of plasma bubbles. Vertical profiles of electron density estimated from Langmuir probe data showed wave patterns and small- and medium-scale plasma irregularities in the valley region (100–300 km) during the rocket upleg and downleg. These irregularities resemble those detected by the very high frequency (VHF) radar installed at Jicamarca and so-called equatorial quasi-periodic echoes. We present evidence suggesting that these observations could be the first detection of this type of irregularity made by instruments onboard a rocket.