Interplanetary Coronal Mass Ejection effects on thermospheric density as inferred from International Space Station orbital data

T. Mendaza*, J. J. Blanco-Ávalos, J. Martín-Torres

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The solar activity induces long term and short term periodical variations in the dynamics and composition of Earth's atmosphere. The Sun also shows non periodical (i.e., impulsive) activity that reaches the planets orbiting around it. In particular, Interplanetary Coronal Mass Ejections (ICMEs) reach Earth and interact with its magnetosphere and upper neutral atmosphere. Nevertheless, the interaction with the upper atmosphere is not well characterized because of the absence of regular and dedicated in situ measurements at high altitudes; thus, current descriptions of the thermosphere are based on semi empirical models.

In this paper, we present the total neutral mass densities of the thermosphere retrieved from the orbital data of the International Space Station (ISS) using the General Perturbation Method, and we applied these densities to routinely compiled trajectories of the ISS in low Earth orbit (LEO). These data are explicitly independent of any atmospheric model. Our density values are consistent with atmospheric models, which demonstrates that our method is reliable for the inference of thermospheric density. We have inferred the thermospheric total neutral density response to impulsive solar activity forcing from 2001 to the end of 2006 and determined how solar events affect this response. Our results reveal that the ISS orbital parameters can be used to infer the thermospheric density and analyze solar effects on the thermosphere.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2233-2251
Number of pages19
JournalAdvances in Space Research
Issue number10
Early online date24 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2017

Bibliographical note

We acknowledge Michael Lodge-Paolini for providing the high resolution ephemerids of the ISS. The TLEs were obtained from Dr. T.S. Kelso, who is in charge of the public website asp. We would like to thank NASA OMNIWEB for providing the magnetic field data required for the execution of this work.
CME catalog is generated and maintained at the CDAW Data Center by NASA and The Catholic University of America in cooperation with the Naval Research Laboratory. SOHO is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.
We acknowledge Oulu’s neutron monitor for supplying the neutron count data, NMBD for providing a web interface for downloading the neutron data, and Kyoto University and ( for the geomagnetic indexes.
TM has been partially funded by the Graduate School of Space Technology of the Lulea˚ Tekniska Universitet, and JJBA has been funded by the CTM2016-77325-C2-1-P project.


  • Thermosphere total neutral density
  • ISS drag coefficient
  • Sun-Earth interaction
  • Interplanetary Coronal Mass Ejections


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