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Simulation of Space Environment Effects On Particle Sensors Open Access


Other title
Particle in cell (PIC) simulations
Kinetic simulations
Particle sensors
Plasma-satellite interaction
Test-kinetic simulations
Langmuir probes
Magnetic field perturbations
Satellite charging
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Rehman, Saeed ur
Supervisor and department
Richard Marchand (Department of Physics)
Examining committee member and department
Richard Sydora (Department of Physics)
Richard Marchand (Department of Physics)
Chijin Xiao (Department of Physics and Engineering Physics)
Massimo Boninsegni (Department of Physics)
Erik Rosolowsky (Department of Physics)
Department of Physics

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This dissertation presents detailed analyses of the interaction between space plasma and satellites, and its effect on the payload sensor measurements using particle in cell (PIC) and test-particle modeling. In a satellite frame, the plasma flow velocity ~v and geomagnetic field ~B lead to a motional electric field ~E = −~v × ~B , which affects the sheath surrounding the spacecraft and the particle distribution functions in the vicinity of the sensors. Combined with the sheath electric field resulting from spacecraft charging, this can then lead to aberrations in measurements made with these sensors, particularly with those sensitive to thermal particles. As case studies, a particular attention is given to the Swarm electric field instrument (EFI). On each of the three Swarm satellites, EFI consists of a pair of thermal ion imagers (TIIs) mounted on the ram face and two small Langmuir probes extending in the nadir direction. The TIIs are capable of measuring ion distributions in three-dimensional velocity space. The centroid of the O+ ion flux on the array of detectors in these sensors, serves to determine the plasma flow velocity in the satellite rest frame, from which the motional electric field can be inferred from the relation above. At the time of this writing, no in situ validated measurements were available from the Swarm sensors, but simulation results obtained, assuming representative ionospheric parameters, indicate that aberrations associated with spacecraft charging and motional electric fields can be expected to vary in the range ±200 m/s between the North and South magnetic poles. Characteristics of the Langmuir probes are also calculated, in which the effect of the local magnetic field and the possibility of crosstalk is considered. Magnetic fields are found to have a measurable effect, despite the fact that thermal electrons have a larger gyro-radius than the probe size. Under normal conditions, no significant crosstalk between the probes is expected. In another study, the first fully kinetic quantitative estimate of magnetic field perturbations caused by the interaction of a spacecraft with space environment is made. In this case, magnetic field perturbations are below the sensitivity threshold of the on-board Swarm magnetometers. However, for missions subject to more intense solar radiation, they would likely approach or exceed instruments’ sensitivity thresholds. Finally, PTetra simulations are applied to a laboratory experiment, relevant to plasma-satellite interaction. In this experiment, the interaction of a supersonic argon plasma with a conducting sphere in a vacuum chamber is studied, and Langmuir probe characteristics are measured. Characteristics are computed at two probe locations which are in good agreement with measurements.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
S. Rehman, J. Burchill, A. Eriksson, and R. Marchand, “Earth magnetic field effects on Swarm electric field instrument,” Planet. Space Sci., vol. 73, pp. 145 –150, 2012.S. U. Rehman, R. Marchand, J.-J. Berthelier, T. Onishi, and J. Burchill, “Earth magnetic field effects on particle sensors on LEO satellites,” IEEE Trans. Plasma Sci., vol. 41, no. 12, pp. 3402 – 3409, 2013.S. ur Rehman and R. Marchand, “Plasma-satellite interaction driven magnetic field perturbations,” Phys. Plasmas, vol. 21, p. 090701 (5 pp.), 2014.

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