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Proton belt radiation exposure to satellites

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr William Béthune.

Electric propulsion technology now enables satellite operators to achieve geostationary orbit efficiently without the use of chemical propellant via electric orbit raising. This includes the compromise of a longer raising period, during which satellites traverse the hazardous radiation environment of the Van Allen belts. This is one of the numerous ways in which utilisation of this region of space is increasing. The higher radiation exposure during electric orbit raising, as well as for other types of missions, must be accounted for by mission planners through the use of environment models such as NASA ’s AP8 /AE8. However, case studies such as the CRRES mission show our predictive capability is limited by dynamic changes to the proton belt and slot region that can occur in large solar energetic particle trapping events, raising the risk for spacecraft shielding to be under-designed. Following a discussion of the dynamic changes that can affect the proton radiation environment, we show the accumulation of solar cell damage due to non-ionising dose for a variety of electric orbit raising scenarios based on real trajectories, and discuss how varying key engineering parameters affects the result. In particular, we show that the trajectory, solar cell coverglass thickness and state of the proton belt can affect solar panel degradation accrued during electric orbit raising by up to ~10%. We conclude more real-time information is required on the transient nature of the outer proton belt to help assess radiation damage.

This talk is part of the DAMTP Astro Lunch series.

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