Skip to Main Content
The floating potential measurement unit (FPMU) is a multiprobe package designed to measure the floating potential of the International Space Station (ISS) as well as the density and temperature of the local ionospheric plasma environment. The purpose of the FPMU is to provide direct measurements of ISS spacecraft charging as continuing construction leads to dramatic changes in ISS size and configuration. FPMU data are used for refinement and validation of the ISS spacecraft charging models used to evaluate the severity and frequency of occurrence of ISS charging hazards. The FPMU data and the models are also used to evaluate the effectiveness of proposed hazard controls. The FPMU consists of four probes: a floating potential probe, two Langmuir probes, and a plasma impedance probe. These probes measure the floating potential of the ISS, plasma density, and electron temperature. Redundant measurements using different probes support data validation by interprobe comparisons. The FPMU was installed by ISS crew members during an extra-vehicular activity on the starboard (S1) truss of the ISS in early August 2006 when the ISS configuration included only one 160-V U.S. photovoltaic (PV) array module. The first data campaign began a few hours after installation and continued for over five days. Additional data campaigns were completed in 2007 after a second 160-V U.S. PV array module was added to the ISS. This paper discusses the general operational characteristics of the FPMU as integrated on ISS, the functional performance of each probe, the charging behavior of the ISS before and after the addition of a second 160-V U.S. PV array module, and initial results from model comparisons.