Sanmartín Losada, Juan Ramón and Charro, Mario and Peláez, J. and Tinao, I. and Elaskar, Sergio and Hilgers, A.
Floating Bare Tether as Upper Atmosphere Probe.
In: "2nd International Energy Conversion Engineering Conference", 16-19 Aug, Providence, Rhode Island. ISBN 1563477157.
Use of a (bare) conductive tape electrically floating in LEO as an effective e-beam source that produces artificial auroras, and is free of problems that have marred standard beams, is considered. Ambient ions impacting the tape with KeV energies over most of its length liberate secondary electrons, which race down the magnetic field and excite neutrals in the E-layer, resulting in auroral emissions. The tether would operate at night-time with both a power supply and a plasma contactor off; power and contactor would be on at daytime for reboost. The optimal tape thickness yielding a minimum mass for an autonomous system is determined; the alternative use of an electric thruster for day reboost, depending on mission duration, is discussed. Measurements of emission brightness from the spacecraft could allow
determination of the (neutral) density vertical profile in the critical E-layer; the flux and energy in the beam, varying along the tether, allow imaging line-of-sight integrated emissions that mix effects with altitude-dependent neutral density and lead to a brightness
peak in the beam footprint at the E-layer. Difficulties in tomographic inversion, to determine the density profile, result from beam broadening, due to elastic collisions, which flattens the peak, and to the highly nonlinear functional dependency of line-of-sight brightness. Some
dynamical issues are discussed.