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NASA GRC and MSFC Space Plasma Arc Testing Procedures

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6 Author(s)
Ferguson, D.C. ; NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL ; Vayner, B.V. ; Galofaro, J.T. ; Hillard, G.B.
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Tests of arcing and current collection in simulated-space-plasma conditions have been performed at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Glenn Research Center (GRC) in Cleveland, OH, for over 30 years and at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, AL, for almost as long. During this period, proper test conditions for an accurate and meaningful space simulation have been worked out, comparisons with actual space performance in spaceflight tests and with real operational satellites have been made, and NASA has achieved the authors' own internal standards for test protocols. It is the purpose of this paper to communicate the test conditions, test procedures, and types of analysis used at the NASA GRC and MSFC to the space environmental testing community at large, to help with international space-plasma arcing-testing standardization. Discussed herein are the neutral gas conditions, plasma densities and uniformity, vacuum chamber sizes, sample sizes and Debye lengths, biasing samples versus self-generated voltages, floating samples versus grounded samples, test electrical conditions, arc detection, preventing sustained discharges during testing, real samples versus idealized samples, validity of low Earth orbit tests for geosynchronous Earth orbit samples, extracting arc threshold information from an arc rate versus voltage tests, snapover, current collection and glows at the positive sample bias, Kapton pyrolysis, thresholds for trigger arcs, sustained arcs, dielectric breakdown and Paschen discharge, tether arcing and testing in very dense plasmas (i.e., thruster plumes), arc mitigation strategies, charging mitigation strategies, models, and analysis of test results. Finally, the necessity of testing will be emphasized, not to the exclusion of modeling, but as part of a complete strategy for determining when and if arcs will occur, and preventing them from occurring in space

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Plasma Science, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:34 ,  Issue: 5 )