Someday the U.S. military could drive a trailer to a spot just beyond insurgent fighting and, within minutes, reconfigure part of the atmosphere, blocking an enemy’s ability to receive satellite signals, even as U.S. troops are able to see into the area with radar.
An engineer with Research Support Instruments in Princeton, N.J. recently completed the first phase of work for a U.S. Air Force sponsored project called Microwave Ionosphere Reconfiguration Ground based Emitter, or Mirage. (scroll down)
The work involves using plasma an ionized gas to reconfigure the ionosphere. Mirage would employ a microwave transmitter on the ground and a small rocket that shoots chaff into the air to produce about a liter of plasma at 60–100 km. (36– 60 mi.) in altitude, changing the number of electrons in a select area of the ionosphere to create a virtual barrier. Ionosphere reconfiguration offers two major applications of interest to the military: bouncing radars off the ionosphere, also known as over-the-horizon radar, and the ability to jam signals from the Global Positioning Satellite system, according to John Kline, the lead investigator for Mirage.
This work is only the latest effort in Kline’s more extensive investigations of atmospheric plasmas Before Mirage, Kline had another contract for a project called Plasma Point Defense, which explored the possibility of using a plasma weapon on board a U.S. Navy surface vessel to protect against threats ranging from surface-to-surface missiles to mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.
In the past, NASA’s fringe science arm has looked into tweaking Mother Nature, to throw hurricanes off their course. But those were just computer simulations. No one actually tried to go out a build some weather control machine.