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Space Weather causes years of radiation damage to satellites using electric propulsion

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Using electrical propulsion for elevating satellites into geostationary orbit may end up in vital photo voltaic cell degradation in response to a brand new examine. The prolonged journey leads to higher publicity to the damaging results of area climate. Understanding the scale of this threat is important for industrial operators to take steps to mitigate the results and shield their property.

The brand new analysis by British Antarctic Survey, College of Cambridge, and DH Consultancy – revealed this month within the journal Area Climate – is being introduced on the Royal Astronomical Society’s Nationwide Astronomy Assembly 1 July 2019.

The examine concludes that after a radiation storm, most photo voltaic cell output energy might be decreased by as much as eight% by the point satellites attain their goal vacation spot utilizing electrical orbit elevating. That is equal to the extent of harm that will be anticipated after spending round 15 years at geostationary orbit.

Throughout a radiation storm, charged particles launched by the Solar turn into trapped inside Earth’s magnetic area, forming the Van Allen radiation belts which encircle Earth, and collisions with these charged particles causes harm to the photo voltaic cells. This degradation is as much as eight% of output energy in a worst-case situation, however even in a quiet setting, the examine predicts a 1-Three% discount in output.

Lead writer Alexander Lozinski, an area climate scientist on the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), feedback:

“Now we perceive the extent of harm brought on by a slower journey into geostationary orbit, industrial satellite tv for pc operators can plan optimum routes in the course of the mission design and planning phases to make sure the most effective lifespan for his or her merchandise”.

Within the final 4 years industrial satellite tv for pc missions have begun to make use of the usage of electrical propulsion for orbit elevating. With out the necessity to carry chemical propellant onboard, satellite tv for pc measurement and mass may be decreased, leading to vital value financial savings. Decreasing the scale of satellites might make it attainable to launch two spacecraft on the identical rocket (nearly halving the price of launch). Alternatively, the financial savings in mass might be used to accommodate extra/bigger payloads, enabling elevated income or higher technical functionality.

In a standard launch the satellite tv for pc is positioned right into a geostationary switch orbit by the launch car and makes use of chemical propellants to achieve geosynchronous orbit. This orbital switch manoeuvre usually takes a couple of days.

Nonetheless, when (solely) electrical propulsion is used, it may possibly take as much as 200 days to achieve the goal orbit as a result of decrease thrust. This leads to satellites spending an extended within the Van Allen belts, the place they’re uncovered to the dangerous results of area radiation.

“We studied three various kinds of orbit elevating and located that though eight% degradation may be very excessive, cautious selection of orbit and shielding can cut back this to an appropriate stage,” says Lozinski.

“For instance, switch orbits with a excessive preliminary apogee (most altitude) enable satellites to go by way of areas the place trapped protons are current, at higher pace, lowering the extent of harm from radiation.”

“Business satellites with all-electric propulsion have been first launched in 2015” says Professor Richard Horne, Head of the Area Climate crew at BAS. “We by no means anticipated such a big discount in energy from a radiation storm. The great factor is that this examine will assist the satellite tv for pc trade to plan the most effective orbit which reduces radiation harm”.

Analysis Report: “Solar Cell Degradation due to Proton Belt Enhancements During Electric Orbit Raising to GEO”

Associated Hyperlinks

Royal Astronomical Society

Space Technology News – Applications and Research

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