Analysis of ISS Plasma Interaction
Brandon, Reddell, et al. (2006). "Analysis of ISS Plasma Interaction." 44th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting and Exhibit
To date, the International Space Station (ISS) has been one of the largest objects flown in lower earth orbit (LEO). The ISS utilizes high voltage solar arrays (160V) that are negatively grounded leading to pressurized elements that can float negatively with respect to the plasma. Because laboratory measurements indicate a dielectric breakdown potential difference of 80V, arcing could occur on the ISS structure. To overcome the possibility of arcing and clamp the potential of the structure, two Plasma Contactor Units (PCUs) were designed, built, and flown. Also a limited amount of measurements of the floating potential for the present ISS configuration were made by a Floating Potential Probe (FPP), indicating a minimum potential of –24 Volts at the measurement location. A predictive tool, the ISS Plasma Interaction Model (PIM) has been developed accounting for the solar array electron collection, solar array mast wire and effective conductive area on the structure. The model has been used for predictions of the present ISS configuration. The conductive area has been inferred based on available floating potential measurements. Analysis of FPP and PCU data indicated distribution of the conductive area along the Russian segment of the ISS structure. A significant input to PIM is the plasma environment. The International Reference Ionosphere (IRI 2001) was initially used to obtain plasma temperature and density values. However, IRI provides mean parameters, leading to difficulties in interpretation of on-orbit data, especially at eclipse exit where maximum charging can occur. This limits our predicative capability. Satellite and Incoherent Scatter Radar (ISR) data of plasma parameters have also been collected. Approximately 130,000 electron temperature (Te) and density (Ne) pairs for typical ISS eclipse exit conditions have been extracted from the reduced Langmuir probe data flown aboard the NASA DE-2 satellite. Additionally, another 18,000 Te and Ne pairs of ISR data from several radar locations around the globe were used to assure consistency of the satellite data. PIM predictions for ISS charging made with this data correlated very well with FPP data, indicating that the general physics of spacecraft charging with high voltage solar arrays have been captured. The predictions also provided the probabilities of occurrences for ISS charging. These probabilities give a numerical measure of the number of times when the ISS will approach or exceed the vehicle plasma hazard conditions for each configuration. In this paper we shall present the interaction mechanisms between the ISS and the surrounding plasma and give an overview of the PIM components. PIM predictions are compared with available data followed by a discussion of the variability of plasma parameters and the conductive area on the ISS. The ISS PIM will be further tested and verified as data from the Floating Potential Measurement Unit become available, and construction of the ISS continues.
DOI: doi:10.2514/6.2006-865 10.2514/6.2006-865