Analysis of International Space Station Plasma Interaction (Plasma Interaction Model) - 05.13.15

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
This analysis created a model to predict the voltage difference between the ISS and the plasma background. The ionospheric plasma interacts with the ISS solar arrays and conducting surfaces, causing excess charge to be accumulated, thus creating the potential difference. This model will be used to predict the ISS floating potentials to assess vehicle and EMU dielectric breakdown.
Science Results for Everyone
The station gets a charge out of space. Scientists developed this model to help predict electric charge build-up on the station’s solar arrays and to provide better understanding of interactions between the station and ionospheric plasma, which is very thin air containing many free electrons and positive ions. This interaction is what causes build-up of electric charge, creating a voltage difference between the station and plasma that can damage electrical equipment. Using ground and historical data, the model characterized peak voltage levels for various configurations of the station. This information also will contribute to studies of the effects on vehicle and crew.

The following content was provided by Ronald R. Mikatarian, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details

OpNom:

Principal Investigator(s)
Ronald R. Mikatarian, Boeing, Houston, TX, United States

Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)
Brandon Reddell, Ph.D., Boeing, Houston, TX, United States

Developer(s)
Boeing, Houston, TX, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD)

Research Benefits
Information Pending

ISS Expedition Duration
April 2005 - April 2008

Expeditions Assigned
11,12,13,14,15,16

Previous ISS Missions
The Plasma Interaction Model is a unique investigation, which has not been previously performed.

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • The ISS must be protected from the hazards of space. The Plasma Interaction Model (PIM) can predict ISS floating potential. This information is needed in order to study vehicle and crew impacts.


  • The Plasma Interaction Model will provide a better understanding of the interaction of ISS vehicle with the surrounding plasma.

Description
This experiment was designed to create a model to predict the voltage difference between the ISS and the plasma background. The ionospheric plasma interacts with the ISS solar arrays and conducting surfaces, causing excess charge to be accumulated, thus creating the potential difference. This model will be used to predict the ISS floating potentials to assess vehicle and EMU dielectric breakdown.

The Plasma Interaction Model (PIM) collected measurements of the ionospheric plasma around the ISS using the Floating Potential Probe (FPP) that was mounted outside on an ISS truss until it was jettisoned in late 2005. Data were also collected using the Incoherent Scatter Radar (ISR) data, a ground-based technique for the study of the Earth's ionosphere and its interactions with the upper atmosphere, the magnetosphere and the interplanetary medium (solar wind). These measurements helped validate the models that used magnetic field inputs from the International Geomagnetic Reference Field (IGRF), and plasma environmental parameters from the International Reference Ionosphere (IRI), an empirical standard model of the ionosphere based on all available data sources. Joint investigations with ISR principal investigators at Millstone Hill (USA) and Irkutsk (Russia) have been conducted. Plasma data from a previously launched satellite, Dynamics Explorer-2 (launched August 3, 1981 and collected data through February 19, 1983) can also be used as input into PIM. This plasma database will be increased as more plasma data become available, i.e., from the CHAMP satellite and ISS Floating Potential Measurement Unit (FPMU). Other inputs to the PIM include vehicle coordinates, configuration of solar arrays, conducting area, and the Plasma Contactor Unit (PCU) currents and current-to-voltage relationship.

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Applications

Space Applications
This Plasma Interaction Model models the interaction of the space-craft, with high voltage solar arrays, to the local plasma environment.

Earth Applications
This model will be the standard for solar arrays in space. With an energy crisis upon us, solar power is a viable alternative. Ultimately solar arrays in space create more power than solar arrays on the ground. This model will be invaluable for those seeking to pioneer solar arrays in space for the private sector.

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Operations

Operational Requirements
Continue operation of ISS PCU and FPMU to gather test data for various ISS flight configurations and attitudes.

Operational Protocols
Data will be collected and analyzed from different inputs, such as the Earth ground stations and ISS. The data points will then be plotted for analysis and interpretation.

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Results/More Information

The PIM has been used to predict the charge build-up and associated dangers for future ISS solar array configurations. Ground data were collected from various locations around the world. Additionally, historical data—e.g., the IRI 2001 model, FPP data, and the Dynamics Explorer-2 Satellite data, are available. Using these data, the PIM has been able to characterize the peak voltage levels for the various ISS stage builds. (Reddell et al. 2006). (Evans et al. 2009)

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Results Publications

    Reddell B, Alred J, Kramer L, Mikatarian RR, Minow J, Koontz S.  Analysis of ISS Plasma Interaction. 44th Aerospace Sciences Meeting and Exhibit. Reno, NV; 2006 January 9-12

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Ground Based Results Publications

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ISS Patents

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Related Publications

    Mikatarian RR, Kern J, Barsamian H, Koontz S, Roussel J.  Plasma Charging of the International Space Station. 53rd International Astronautical Congress, The World Space Congress, Houston, TX; 2002

    Mikatarian RR, Barsamian H, Alred J, Kern J, Minnow JI, Koontz S.  Electrical Charging of the International Space Station. 41st Aerospace Sciences Meeting and Exhibit, Reno, NV; 2003

    Barsamian H, Mikatarian RR, Minnow JI, Alred J, Koontz S.  ISS Plasma Interaction: Measurements and modeling. 8th Spacecraft Charging Technology Conference, Huntsville, AL; 2003

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Related Websites

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Imagery