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Spacecraft plasma interactions (especially spacecraft charging and contamination by secondary particles) can strongly perturb plasma and particle measurements in space. Therefore, modelling these interaction is important for optimising the design of plasma instruments and their location on the platform and for the scientific exploitation of the data because .

Cross-scale, Laplace, Tandem and other Cosmic Vision missions are planned to include plasma payloads to investigate the magnetospheres of Earth, Jupiter and Saturn and other solar system plasmas. Electrostatic cleanliness of such scientific spacecraft for correct functioning of plasma measuring payloads requires limiting electrostatic potential perturbations and interference from spacecraft-generated charged particles (e.g. secondary/photo electrons and sputtered ions). This leads to a requirement for low spacecraft potential (typically ~1V), well below the energy of particles being detected, and for spacecraft-induced fluxes well below ambient levels. Control and mitigation of spacecraft perturbation of plasma/field sensors is possible through charge alleviation devices, grounding, material selection and siting of detectors.

The European Space Agency has sponsored modelling activities to address these issues. The open source spacecraft-plasma interaction simulation tool, SPIS, might currently lack the required accuracy. Increasing the accuracy to the required level requires significant physics, algorithm and software developments, possibly including better modelling of secondary/photo/sputter emission, better shadowing, control of convergence, optimisation of number of particles per cell and improved trajectory accuracy. SPIS simulation toolkit has been conceived with a modular approach such that extension of the capabilities and functionalities can be performed without reengineering the whole software.r


The meeting will take place on 13-14 November in Room Na213 at ESTEC, Noordwijk, The Netherlands.

Participation to the meeting is free of charge.

Please indicate your willingness to participate to the meeting and whether you plan to present some materials relevant to the meeting topics:

  • spacecraft plasma interactions effects on scientific instruments
  • onboard calibration of plasma instruments
  • modelling requirements for plasma instruments
  • current capabilities in modelling spacecraft plasma interactions

Preliminary programme

Last edited by Amandine Champlain at Nov 16, 2017 4:27 PM