Title page for ETD etd-08242006-184416

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Barrie, Alexander
URN etd-08242006-184416
Title Modeling Differential Charging of Composite Spacecraft Bodies Using the Coliseum Framework
Degree Master of Science
Department Aerospace and Ocean Engineering
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Wang, Joseph J. Committee Chair
Kapania, Rabesh K. Committee Member
Scales, Wayne A. Committee Member
  • particle in cell
  • electric propulsion plume
  • spacecraft charging
Date of Defense 2006-08-14
Availability unrestricted
The COLISEUM framework is a tool designed for electric propulsion plume interactions. Virginia Tech has been developing a module for COLISEUM called DRACO, a particle-in-cell based code capable of plume modeling for geometrically complex spacecraft. This work integrates a charging module into DRACO. Charge is collected via particle impingement on the spacecraft surface and converted to potential. Charge can be stored in the surface, or added to a local ground potential. Current can flow through the surface and is governed by the internal electric field in the spacecraft.

Several test cases were run to demonstrate the code's capabilities. The first was a plume impingement of a composite spherical probe by a xenon thruster. It was shown that the majority of current conducted will reach the interior of the spacecraft, not other surface elements. A conductive interior will therefore result in a uniform surface potential, even for low surface conductivities. A second test case showed a composite spacecraft exposed to a solar wind. This test showed that when a potential gradient is applied to a conductive body, the ground potential of the spacecraft will lower significantly to compensate and maintain a zero net current. The case that used the semiconductive material showed that the effect of the potential gradient can be lowered in cases such as this, where some charge will always be stuck in the surface. If a dielectric material is used, the gradient will disappear altogether. The final test case showed the effect of charge exchange ion backflow on the potential of a spacecraft similar to the DAWN spacecraft. This case showed that CEX ion distribution is not even along the spacecraft and will result in a transverse potential gradient along the panel.

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