Sound from Apollo Rockets in Space

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Science  12 Feb 1971:
Vol. 171, Issue 3971, pp. 565-567
DOI: 10.1126/science.171.3971.565


Low-frequency sound has been recorded on at least two occasions in Bermuda with the passage of Apollo rocket vehicles 188 kilometers aloft. The signals, which are reminiscent of N-waves from sonic booms, are (i) horizontally coherent; (ii) have extremely high (supersonic) trace velocities across the tripartite arrays; (iii) have nearly identical appearance and frequencies; (iv) have essentially identical arrival times after rocket launch; and (v) are the only coherent signals recorded over many hours. These observations seem to establish that the recorded sound comes from the rockets at high elevation. Despite this high elevation, the values of surface pressure appear to be explainable on the basis of a combination of a kinetic theory approach to shock formation in rarefied atmospheres with established gas-dynamics shock theory.