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Seismic excitation by space shuttles

Kanamori, H. and Mori, J. and Sturtevant, B. and Anderson, D. L. and Heaton, T. (1992) Seismic excitation by space shuttles. Shock Waves, 2 (2). pp. 89-96. ISSN 0938-1287. doi:10.1007/BF01415896.

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Shock waves generated by the space shuttles Columbia (August 13, 1989), Atlantis (April 11, 1991) and Discovery (September 18, 1991) on their return to Edwards Air Force Base, California, were recorded by TERRAscope (Caltech's broadband seismic network), the Caltech-U.S.G.S Southern California Seismic Network (SCSN), and the University of Southern California (USC) Los Angeles Basin Seismic Network. The spatial pattern of the arrival limes exhibits hyperbolic shock fronts from which the path, velocity and altitude of the space shuttle could be determined. The shock wave was acoustically coupled to the ground, converted to a seismic wave, and recorded clearly at the broadband TERRAscope stations. The acoustic coupling occurred very differently depending on the conditions of the Earth's surface surrounding the station. For a seismic station located on hard bedrock, the shock wave (N wave) was clearly recorded with little distortion. Aside from the N wave, very little acoustic coupling of the shock wave energy to the ground occurred at these sites. The observed N wave record was used to estimate the overpressure of the shock wave accurately; a pressure change of 0.5 to 2.2 mbars was obtained. For a seismic station located close to the ocean or soft sedimentary basins, a significant amount of shock wave energy was transferred to the ground through acoustic coupling of the shock wave and the oceanic Rayleigh wave. A distinct topography such as a mountain range was found effective to couple the shock wave energy to the ground. Shock wave energy was also coupled to the ground very effectively through large man made structures such as high rise buildings and offshore oil drilling platforms. For the space shuttle Columbia, in particular, a distinct pulse having a period of about 2 to 3 seconds was observed, 12.5 s before the shock wave, with a broadband seismograph in Pasadena. This pulse was probably excited by the high rise buildings in downtown Los Angeles which were simultaneously hit by the space shuttle shock waves. The proximity of the natural periods of the high rise buildings and the modal periods of the Los Angeles basin enabled efficient energy transfer from shock wave to seismic wave.

Item Type:Article
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Kanamori, H.0000-0001-8219-9428
Heaton, T.0000-0003-3363-2197
Additional Information:©1992 Springer-Verlag. Received January 20, 1992; accepted March 6, 1992. We benefited a great deal from discussions with Paul Jennings, James Beck and David Harkrider. We appreciate the information on the space shuttle parameters provided by David Goldstein. We thank Domenic Maglieri for the references to seismic measurements of sonic booms. The broadband data from the University of Southern California was kindly provided by Egill Hauksson. We thank Francis Lehner who brought a seismogram recorded at his house to our attention. We would like to thank Frank Borden, Los Angeles City Fire Department, for having provided us with the building statistics in the City of Los Angeles. This research was partially supported by a grant from the L.K. Whittier Foundation and the ARCO Foundation and by the Seismological Laboratory Coffee Club Funds. Contribution number 5140, Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena California.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
L. K. Whittier FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Seismological Laboratory Coffee Club FundsUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Space shuttle; Seismic wave; Acoustic coupling
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Other Numbering System NameOther Numbering System ID
Caltech Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences5140
Issue or Number:2
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20130507-093416832
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Official Citation:Kanamori, H., J. Mori, et al. (1992). "Seismic excitation by space shuttles." Shock Waves 2(2): 89-96.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:38313
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:13 May 2013 19:37
Last Modified:09 Nov 2021 23:36

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