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NASA Air Force Spacecraft Charging Analyzer Program Confirmation of GPS Arcing

Karin W. Fulford, Dale Ferguson, Ryan Hoffmann, Vanessa Murray, Daniel Engelhart, Elena Plis

Abstract: GPS satellites undergo surface contamination on the solar array coverglasses from repeated arcing events. Using NASA Air Force Spacecraft Charging Analyzer Program (Nascap-2 K) spacecraft charging simulation software, a GPS Block IIF satellite model was constructed and analyzed in realistic Medium Earth Orbit environments. GPS Block IIF satellites have Qioptiq CMG-type coverglasses (as do all other GPS satellites). The Nascap-2 K model with CMG coverglasses charges to high differential levels in maximum charging environments, in the range above the arcing threshold, as determined by studies at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), and so arcing is confirmed by theory. This finding agrees with onboard Los Alamos National Laboratory measurements and Arecibo observational data for GPS satellites. Other AFRL results show that CMX-type coverglasses, being more bulk-conductive, should charge less and perhaps mitigate arcing on the solar arrays. A Nascap-2 K model using CMX coverglasses is shown to charge differentially much less than CMG, and not reach levels above the arcing threshold. In the simulation, the commonly used CMG coverglass charges quickly, exceeding its arcing voltage threshold of 1500 V in about 1 h and 10 min. In comparison, CMX results indicate an ability to remain well under its arcing threshold throughout the orbit.
Keywords: surface contamination / Charging / arcing / Spacecraft / GPS / K model / CMG coverglasses / solar arrays

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