A design approach for improving the performance of single-grid planar retarding potential analyzers

Davidson, R. L.; Earle, G. D.
January 2011
Physics of Plasmas;Jan2011, Vol. 18 Issue 1, p012905
Academic Journal
Planar retarding potential analyzers (RPAs) have a long flight history and have been included on numerous spaceflight missions including Dynamics Explorer, the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, and the Communications/Navigation Outage Forecast System. RPAs allow for simultaneous measurement of plasma composition, density, temperature, and the component of the velocity vector normal to the aperture plane. Internal conductive grids are used to approximate ideal potential planes within the instrument, but these grids introduce perturbations to the potential map inside the RPA and cause errors in the measurement of the parameters listed above. A numerical technique is presented herein for minimizing these grid errors for a specific mission by varying the depth and spacing of the grid wires. The example mission selected concentrates on plasma dynamics near the sunset terminator in the equatorial region. The international reference ionosphere model is used to discern the average conditions expected for this mission, and a numerical model of the grid-particle interaction is used to choose a grid design that will best fulfill the mission goals.


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