Detailed modeling and analysis of spacecraft plume/ionosphere interactions in low earth orbit

Kelly A. Stephani, Iain D. Boyd

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

Abstract

Detailed direct simulation Monte Carlo/Particle in Cell simulations involving the inter-fiaction of spacecraft thruster plumes with the rarefied ambient ionosphere are presented for steady thruster firings in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). A nominal mass flow rate is used to prescribe the rocket exit conditions of a neutral propellant species for use in the simula- tions. The charge exchange interactions of the steady plume with the rarefied ionosphere are modeled using a direct simulation Monte Carlo/Particle in Cell methodology, allow- ing for a detailed assessment of non-equilibrium collisional and plasma-related phenomena relevant for these conditions. Results are presented for both ram- and wake-flow configurations, in which the thrusters are firing into (ram) or in the direction of (wake) the free stream ionosphere flow in LEO. The influence of the Earth's magnetic field on the devel- opment of the ion plume is also examined for three different field strengths: two limiting cases in which B = 0 and B = 1, and the LEO case in which B = 0:5 Gs. The magnetic field is found to have a substantial impact on the resulting neutral and ion plumes, and the gyroscopic motion of the magnetized ions results in a broadening of the ion energy distribution functions. The magnetic field model also incorporates a cross-field diffusion mechanism which is shown to increase the current density sampled far from the thruster origin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
DOIs
StatePublished - 2013
Event5th AIAA Atmospheric and Space Environments Conference - San Diego, CA, United States
Duration: Jun 24 2013Jun 27 2013

Other

Other5th AIAA Atmospheric and Space Environments Conference
CountryUnited States
CitySan Diego, CA
Period6/24/136/27/13

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science
  • Space and Planetary Science

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    Stephani, K. A., & Boyd, I. D. (2013). Detailed modeling and analysis of spacecraft plume/ionosphere interactions in low earth orbit. Paper presented at 5th AIAA Atmospheric and Space Environments Conference, San Diego, CA, United States. https://doi.org/10.2514/6.2013-2680