92nd American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting (January 22-26, 2012)

Monday, 23 January 2012
Space Weather Impacts on Spacecraft Design and Operations in Auroral Charging Environments
Hall E (New Orleans Convention Center )
Joseph I. Minow, NASA, Marshal Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL; and L. N. Parker

Spacecraft in low altitude, high inclination (including sun-synchronous) orbits are widely used for remote sensing of the Earth's land surface and oceans, monitoring weather and climate, communications, scientific studies of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere, and a variety of other scientific, commercial, and military applications. These systems are episodically exposed to environments characterized by a high flux of energetic (~1 to 10's kilovolt) electrons in regions of very low background plasma density which is similar in some ways to the space weather conditions in geostationary orbit responsible for spacecraft charging to kilovolt levels. While it is well established that charging conditions in geostationary orbit are responsible for many anomalies and even spacecraft failures, to date there have been relatively few such reports due to charging in auroral environments. This presentation first reviews the physics of the space environment and its interactions with spacecraft materials that control auroral charging rates and the anticipated maximum potentials that should be observed on spacecraft surfaces during disturbed space weather conditions. We then describe how the theoretical values compare to the observational history of extreme charging in auroral environments and discuss how space weather impacts both spacecraft design and operations for vehicles on orbital trajectories that traverse auroral charging environments.

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