Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Department of Engineering Physics

First Advisor

Daniel J. Emmons, PhD


The feasibility of using GPS data to detect fireballs is analyzed by first modeling the fireball’s trail diffusion and plasma chemistry to get a resulting ion density profile of the trail over time. The signal perturbation caused by the fireball trail is simulated for a ground receiver using an analytic solution for diffraction from a Gaussian lens. Five cases were modeled with varying initial peak ion densities and altitudes taken from fireball and reentry vehicle data. This paper shows that it is feasible to detect a fireball trail using GPS if the fireball has a sufficiently high initial ion density, above approximately 1018 m-3, and occurs at an altitude above approximately 75 km. For the five cases the amplitude scintillation index, S4, and phase scintillation index, σɸ , values of the signal for the last detectable ion density profile were calculated.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number