Accession Number:



Rarefied Plasma Aerodynamics for LEO Objects in the Ionosphere

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Technical Report,28 Sep 2016,27 Jan 2018

Corporate Author:

University of New South Wales NSW Australia

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A Particle-in-CellDirect Simulation Monte Carlo PICDSMC solver was developed to investigate the conditions under which the interaction between a resident space object with the tenuous plasma in the ionosphere could produce sufficient force to perturb its orbit. A dimensional analysis of the unmagnetised Vlasov-Maxwell system of equations derived a set of 6 dimensionless parameters that describe the interaction of a body of arbitrary size and surface charge interacting with a plasma under the assumption of a mesothermal condition. The ion energy ratio and general shielding ratio were identified as the parameters that have the greatest influence on the ionospheric drag. The effect of charged drag on the orbit of a CubeSat sized object was investigated through developing a response surface model in and for a cylindrical body of varying radius and surface charge. The response surface was applied to 2 years worth of high fidelity atmosphere data from the Global IonosphereThermospere Model GITM, covering a year of high solar activity 2002 and low solar activity 2007. The results found that ionospheric aerodynamics could contribute between 5 -35 of the total aerodynamic force experienced by a CubeSat sized body at -3V above 469km in 2002 and above 400km in 2007 using the supplied GITM atmospheric dataset. The report concludes that previously neglected ionospheric aerodynamic could be a significant factor driving uncertainty in the accelerations experienced by satellites in the Low Earth Orbit Environment.

Subject Categories:

  • Fluid Mechanics
  • Unmanned Spacecraft

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