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9th Spacecraft Charging Technology Conference


Spacecraft Charging Technology

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A key parameter in modeling differential spacecraft charging is the resistivity of insulating materials. This parameter determines how charge will accumulate and redistribute across the spacecraft, as well as the time scale for charge transport and dissipation. Existing spacecraft charging guidelines recommend use of tests and imported resistivity data from handbooks that are based principally upon ASTM methods that are more applicable to classical ground conditions and designed for problems associated with power loss through the dielectric, than for how long charge can be stored on an insulator. These data have been found to underestimate charging effects by one to four orders of magnitude for spacecraft charging applications. A review is presented of methods to measure the resistivity of highly insulating materials—including the electrometer-resistance method, the electrometer-constant voltage method, the voltage rate-of-change method and the charge storage method. This review is based on joint experimental studies conducted for NASA at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and at Utah State University to investigate the charge storage method and its relation to spacecraft charging. The different methods are found to be appropriate for different resistivity ranges and for different charging circumstances. A simple physics-based model of these methods allows separation of the polarization current and dark current components from long duration measurements of resistivity over day- to month-long time scales. Model parameters are directly related to the magnitude of charge transfer and storage and the rate of charge transport. The model largely explains the observed differences in resistivity found using the different methods and provides a framework for recommendations for the appropriate test method for spacecraft materials with different resistivities and applications. The proposed changes to the existing engineering guidelines are intended to provide design engineers more appropriate methods for consideration and measurements of resistivity for many typical spacecraft charging scenarios.


Paper presented at the 9th Spacecraft Charging Technology Conference, (Epochal Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Japan April 4-8, 2005).. PDF available for download through link above.

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