Using Radar Satellite Detections to Monitor the Ionosphere

Stratospheric-Tropospheric (ST) Very High Frequency (VHF) radar at the Buckland Park field site

Stratospheric-Tropospheric (ST) Very High Frequency (VHF) radar at the Buckland Park field site.

This project will use a radar north of Adelaide to develop new ways to measure the amount of plasma in the upper atmosphere and compare the results with other methods.

The Buckland Park stratosphere-troposphere (BPST) VHF radar is located 40 km North of Adelaide. The radar is typically used to measure stratosphere-troposphere winds and observe meteors in the upper atmosphere. Recently this radar has been used to detect low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites at altitudes from 300 and 2000 km [1]. 

Ionospheric dispersion, which causes a delay in radar signal propagation between the ground and the satellite, results in an increase in the radar-measured distance to the satellite when compared with satellite ephemeris information. The BPST satellite detections therefore potentially offer a new means of measuring Total Electron Content (TEC) at potentially significantly higher temporal resolution when compared with presently utilised GPS measurements. 

This project will collect and analyse LEO satellite data to evaluate the feasibility of using satellite detections as a means to measure ionospheric TEC. The results will be compared to those predicted by climatological models, including the International Reference Ionosphere [2], and a new model developed by University of Adelaide and the Defence Science & Technology group [3].  As the TEC estimation technique has not been reported in the open literature, students will be strongly encouraged to publish their results with the support of their supervisors.


[1] Holdsworth, D. A., Spargo, A. J., Reid, I. M., & Adami, C. (2020). Low Earth Orbit object observations using the Buckland Park VHF radar, Radio Science, 55(2), 1-19.
Bilitza, D., Altadill, D., Truhlik, V., Shubin, V., Galkin, I., Reinisch, B., & Huang, X. (2017). International Reference Ionosphere 2016: From ionospheric climate to real‐time weather predictions. Space Weather, 15(2), 418–429.

[3] Field, D. (2018). A new empirical climatological model of ionospheric foF2 and hmF2 and review of the International Reference Ionosphere. M. Phil: Thesis, The University of Adelaide

Tagged in Honours projects - Physics, Honours Projects - David Holdsworth, Honours Projects - Andrew MacKinnon, Honours Projects - Bronwyn Dolman, Honours in Physics subtheme - Space and atmospheric