The Role of Plasma Processes in the Space Shuttle Environment
AIR FORCE GEOPHYSICS LAB HANSCOM AFB MA
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Sources of enhanced ionization in the Space Shuttle environment are considered, with particular emphasis on the plausibility of a plasma discharge resulting from the Critical Ionization Velocity CIV mechanism. These sources are then compared with ion loss processes. It is found that within the shuttle environment the loss of ions is faster than ion production from CIV, leading to the conclusion that the observed enhancement in ionization arises from sources other than plasma interactions. It is suggested that the seemingly anomalous ionization levels can be attributed to firings of thrusters of the attitude control system. In addition, the connection between the shuttle glow phenomenon and the enhanced ionization is considered and found to be circumstantial and not causal, thereby strengthening the argument that the primary source of the shuttle glow is chemical interactions of atmospheric gases with surfaces or with surface-adsorbed gases.
- Manned Spacecraft