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Proceedings Paper

Acoustic/infrasonic rocket engine signatures
Author(s): Stephen M. Tenney; John M. Noble; Rodney W. Whitaker; Douglas O. ReVelle
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Paper Abstract

Infrasonics offers the potential of long-range acoustic detection of explosions, missiles and even sounds created by manufacturing plants. The atmosphere attenuates acoustic energy above 20 Hz quite rapidly, but signals below 10 Hz can propagate to long ranges. Space shuttle launches have been detected infrasonically from over 1000 km away and the Concorde airliner from over 400 km. This technology is based on microphones designed to respond to frequencies from .1 to 300 Hz that can be operated outdoors for extended periods of time with out degrading their performance. The US Army Research Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory have collected acoustic and infrasonic signatures of static engine testing of two missiles. Signatures were collected of a SCUD missile engine at Huntsville, AL and a Minuteman engine at Edwards AFB. The engines were fixed vertically in a test stand during the burn. We will show the typical time waveform signals of these static tests and spectrograms for each type. High resolution, 24-bit data were collected at 512 Hz and 16-bit acoustic data at 10 kHz. Edwards data were recorded at 250 Hz and 50 Hz using a Geotech Instruments 24 bit digitizer. Ranges from the test stand varied from 1 km to 5 km. Low level and upper level meteorological data was collected to provide full details of atmospheric propagation during the engine test. Infrasonic measurements were made with the Chaparral Physics Model 2 microphone with porous garden hose attached for wind noise suppression. A B&K microphone was used for high frequency acoustic measurements. Results show primarily a broadband signal with distinct initiation and completion points. There appear to be features present in the signals that would allow identification of missile type. At 5 km the acoustic/infrasonic signal was clearly present. Detection ranges for the types of missile signatures measured will be predicted based on atmospheric modeling. As part of an experiment conducted by ARL, sounding rocket launches have been detected from over 150 km. A variety of rockets launched from NASA’s Wallops Island facility were detected over a two year span. Arrays of microphones were able to create a line of bearing to the source of the launches that took place during different times of the year. This same experiment has been able to detect the space shuttle from over 1000 km on a regular basis. These two sources represent opposite ends of the target size, but they do demonstrate the potential for the detection and location of rocket launches.

Paper Details

Date Published: 18 September 2003
PDF: 12 pages
Proc. SPIE 5090, Unattended Ground Sensor Technologies and Applications V, (18 September 2003); doi: 10.1117/12.487119
Show Author Affiliations
Stephen M. Tenney, U.S. Army Research Lab. (United States)
John M. Noble, U.S. Army Research Lab. (United States)
Rodney W. Whitaker, Los Alamos National Lab. (United States)
Douglas O. ReVelle, Los Alamos National Lab. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 5090:
Unattended Ground Sensor Technologies and Applications V
Edward M. Carapezza, Editor(s)

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