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45th American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronomics Meeting on Aerospace Sciences, Reno, NV


American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

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Modest changes in spacecraft charging conditions can lead to abrupt changes in the spacecraft equilibrium, from small positive potentials to large negative potentials relative to the space plasma; this phenomenon is referred to as threshold charging. It is well known that temporal changes of the space plasma environment (electron plasma temperature or density) can cause threshold charging. Threshold charging can also result from by temporal changes in the juxtaposition of the spacecraft to the environment, including spacecraft orbit, orientation, and geometry. This study focuses on the effects of possible changes in electron emission properties of representative spacecraft materials. It is found that for electron-induced emission, the possible threshold scenarios are very rich, since this type of electron emission can cause either positive or negative charging. Alternately, modification of photon- or ion-induced electron emission is found to induce threshold charging only in certain favorable cases. Changes of emission properties discussed include modifications due to: contamination, degradation and roughening of surfaces and layered materials; biasing and charge accumulation; bandstructure occupation and density of states caused by heat, optical or particle radiation; optical reflectivity and absorptivity; and inaccuracies and errors in measurements and parameterization of materials properties. An established method is used here to quantitatively gauge the relative extent to which these various changes in electron emission alter a spacecraft’s charging behavior and possibly lead to threshold charging. The absolute charging behavior of a hypothetical flat, two-dimensional satellite panel of a single material (either polycrystalline conductor Au or the polymeric polyimide Kapton™ H) is modeled as it undergoes modification and concomitant changes in spacecraft charging in three representative geosynchronous orbit environments, from full sunlight to full shade (eclipse) are considered.


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