S. Sasaki, N. Kawashima, K. Kuriki
Jun 1, 1987
Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets
An impulsive plasma injection has been used to study charge neutralization of the Space Shuttle Orbiter while it was emitting an electron beam into space. This investigation was performed by Space Experiments with Particle Accelerators on Spacelab-1. A plasma consisting of 10 to the 19th argon ion-electron pairs was injected into space for 1 ms while an electron beam was also being emitted into space. The electron beam energy and current were as high as 5 keV and 300 mA. While the orbiter potential was positive before the plasma injection and began to decrease during the plasma injection, it was near zero for 6 to 20 ms after the plasma injection. The recovery time to the initial level of charging varied from 10 to 100 ms. In a laboratory test in a large space chamber using the same flight hardware, the neutralization time was 8-17 ms and the recovery time was 11-20 ms. The long duration of the neutralization effect in space can be explained by a model of diffusion of the cold plasma which is produced near the Orbiter by charge exchange between the neutral argon atoms and the energetic argon ions during plasma injection.