In-flight calibration of mesospheric rocket plasma probes

Havnes, Ove; Hartquist, Thomas W.; Kassa, Meseret; Morfill, Gregor E.
July 2011
Review of Scientific Instruments;Jul2011, Vol. 82 Issue 7, p074503
Academic Journal
Many effects and factors can influence the efficiency of a rocket plasma probe. These include payload charging, solar illumination, rocket payload orientation and rotation, and dust impact induced secondary charge production. As a consequence, considerable uncertainties can arise in the determination of the effective cross sections of plasma probes and measured electron and ion densities. We present a new method for calibrating mesospheric rocket plasma probes and obtaining reliable measurements of plasma densities. This method can be used if a payload also carries a probe for measuring the dust charge density. It is based on that a dust probe's effective cross section for measuring the charged component of dust normally is nearly equal to its geometric cross section, and it involves the comparison of variations in the dust charge density measured with the dust detector to the corresponding current variations measured with the electron and/or ion probes. In cases in which the dust charge density is significantly smaller than the electron density, the relation between plasma and dust charge density variations can be simplified and used to infer the effective cross sections of the plasma probes. We illustrate the utility of the method by analysing the data from a specific rocket flight of a payload containing both dust and electron probes.


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