Observations of ionosphere heating in the TSS-1 subsatellite presheath

Ira Katz, Enrico Melchioni, Myron Mandell, Marilyn Oberhardt, Don Thompson, Torsten Neubert, Brian Gilchrist, Carlo Bonifazi

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The first flight of the Tethered Satellite System (TSS- 1) was to investigate the mechanical and electrical dynamics of a conducting satellite deployed from the orbiter via a tether whose core was a conducting wire [Dobrowolny and Melchioni, 1993; Dobrowolny, 1987; Dobrowolny and Stone, 1994). In the TSS-1 system the satellite deployed from the orbiter radially away from the Earth. The relative motion between the tether and Earth's magnetic field generated an electromotive force (EMF) that is the product of orbiter velocity, Earth's magnetic field, and the length of the deployed tether. This EMF drove a current through the tether. Electrons were collected on the satellite's electrically conductive skin and traveled through the tether to the orbiter, where they either went to orbiter structural ground or were emitted into the ionosphere via active electron emission. During TSS-1 this electron emission was accomplished mainly by the 100 mA, 1-keV fast pulsed electron gun (FPEG) of the shuttle electrodynamic tether system (SETS) (Williamson et al., 1988; Banks et al., 1994; V. M. Aguero et al., manuscript in preparation, 1994]. The FPEG electron emission was much higher than either ambient ion collection at the orbiter end or electron collection at the satellite. Potentials of the orbiter with respect to the ambient plasma were obtained from measurements from the Shuttle Potential and Return Electron Experiment (SPREE) (Oberhardt et al., 1993a, b, 1994), the SETS tether current voltage monitor (Thompson et al., 1993), and the Agenzia Spaziale Italiana deployer and satellite core equipment (Bonifazi et al., 1988, 1994). Despite the limited tether deployment length of 268 m the TSS-1 system proved capable, during certain events. of generating satellite potentials sufficient to illuminate a previously unexplored aspect of plasma physics: that of an ion repelling, electron attracting, moving probe in a magnetoplasma. During such events the satellite boom-mounted Langmuir probe flown as part of the Research on Electrodynamic Tethers experiment (Dobrowolny et al., 1994) measured an increase in the electron plasma temperature in the quasi-neutral ionospheric region beyond the satellite sheath. This observed heating of the presheath electrons was distinctly different from the acceleration of the electrons in the sheath, which was also observed when the sheath expanded such that the probe was completely in the sheath. We show that the observed elevated electron temperatures are consistent with the formation of a Bohm stable electron collecting sheath.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue numberA5
Pages (from-to) 8961-8969
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 1994
Externally publishedYes


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