Atomic oxygen number densities in the mesosphere–lower thermosphere region measured by solid electrolyte sensors on WADIS-2
Absolute profiles of atomic oxygen number densities with high vertical resolution have been determined in the mesosphere–lower thermosphere (MLT) region from in situ measurements by several rocket-borne solid electrolyte sensors. The amperometric sensors were operated in both controlled and uncontrolled modes and with various orientations on the foredeck and aft deck of the payload. Calibration was based on mass spectrometry in a molecular beam containing atomic oxygen produced in a microwave discharge. The sensor signal is proportional to the number flux onto the electrodes, and the mass flow rate in the molecular beam was additionally measured to derive this quantity from the spectrometer reading. Numerical simulations provided aerodynamic correction factors to derive the atmospheric number density of atomic oxygen from the sensor data. The flight results indicate a preferable orientation of the electrode surface perpendicular to the rocket axis. While unstable during the upleg, the density profiles measured by these sensors show an excellent agreement with the atmospheric models and photometer results during the downleg of the trajectory. The high spatial resolution of the measurements allows for the identification of small-scale variations in the atomic oxygen concentration.