Observations of Internal Charging Currents in Medium Earth Orbit

QinetiQ, Farnborough
IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science (Impact Factor: 1.1). 11/2008; 36(5):2473 - 2481. DOI: 10.1109/TPS.2008.2001945
Source: IEEE Xplore


The Galileo global navigation system will employ an array of satellites in medium Earth orbit (MEO). Internal charging is one of the primary hazards for any spacecraft in MEO, and accordingly, the Galileo test satellite, Giove-A, carries a detector, SURF, to undertake the measurement of internal charging currents at three different shielding depths. The currents are due to electrons stopped in three aluminum plates: the first plate is 0.5 mm thick and located under 0.5-mm Al-equivalent shielding, the second is 0.5 mm thick and located underneath the first plate, and the third is 1.0 mm thick and located underneath the second plate. Giove-A was successfully launched on December 28, 2005 into a 23 300-km circular 56deg inclination orbit. In this paper, we provide data on the internal charging currents observed in 2006, with particular emphasis on two large charging events, one in mid-April and one in mid-December. Comparisons are made to predictions using the DICTAT internal charging tool and the FLUMIC ldquoworst caserdquo trapped electron belt model. In general, the charging currents observed are safely within the standard DICTAT 3.5/FLUMIC 3.0 predictions but are exceeded in the most shielded plate on five calendar days during December 2006. The December event was unique in 2006 in that it was triggered by the arrival of a coronal mass ejection (CME) rather than being due to the effects of a fast solar wind stream flowing from a coronal hole. The currents measured in the December event were, however, an order of magnitude lower than those predicted using the ldquoanomalously large eventrdquo supplement to FLUMIC which models the most extreme electron enhancements associated with CMEs.

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