An Introduction to Space Instrumentation,
Edited by K. Oyama and C. Z. Cheng, pp. 77-90.
© TERRAPUB, 2013.
H. S. S. Sinha
Physical Research Laboratory, Navrangpura, Ahmedabad - 380 009, India
Ionospheric plasma density exhibits very large spatial and temporal variations known as ionosphere irregularities. These irregularities are generated by a number of processes related to plasma as well as neutral dynamics. The rocket- or satellite-borne Langmuir probe (LP) is very simple and yet a very powerful tool to measure spatial variation of plasma density enabling one to study ionosphere irregularities. This article describes how a rocket-borne LP can be used to study ionosphere irregularities. It begins with the basic principle of the LP, the ionospheric regions where it can be used, various sizes and shapes of the LP sensors, the effect of geomagnetic field and vehicle wake on LP measurements. Mechanical and electronic details of typical LP instrument are given next. Strengths, weaknesses and specifications of LP instrument are also given. Rocket-borne LP has been used by a large number of scientists in the world to study ionospheric irregularities produced through plasma instabilities in the equatorial electrojet region, in spread F and those produced by neutral turbulence. Highlights of such irregularity measurements are presented to give the reader a flavor of the type of studies which can be undertaken using a rocket-borne LP. The present capability of rocket-borne LP is to detect vertical scale sizes of ionospheric irregularities from a few km down to about 10 cm with percentage amplitudes as small as 0.001%. Finally, a few suggestions are given for the improvement the LP instrumentation for future use.
Key words: Langmuir probe, plasma density irregularities, in situ measurement.