Spacecraft radiation environment modelling

The aim of this project is to model the near Earth radiation environment to establish particle energies, fluxes and fluences to test spacecraft components. This can be achieved by simulating various orbits from LEO, MEO and GEO and solar particle events using established models (e.g. SPENVIS).

Spacecraft operate in a radiation environment that adversely affects their electronic components. The environment varies spatially and temporally depending on regions of the space environment and space weather effects from solar and geomagnetic disturbances.

The low earth orbit (LEO) environment up to 2000km altitude is largely in the ionosphere with challenges related to charge build-up from keV electrons and subsequent electrostatic discharge as well as energetic protons effects in the South Atlantic Anomaly where the inner radiation belt impacts LEO.

The Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) environment near 20,000km altitude encompasses the inner radiation belt dominated by energetic protons which cause Single Event Effects (SEE) in electronics.

The Geostationary Orbit (GEO) at 35,786km altitude lies in the outer radiation belt dominated by energetic electrons which may penetrate the spacecraft skin, embed in spacecraft electronics and then discharge (Deep Di-electric Discharge - DDD) hours or days later to cause damage. During geomagnetic storms electrons and protons are accelerated in the radiation belts to relativistic speeds and MeV energies to cause the effects mentioned above.

Additionally spacecraft may be impacted even higher energy protons directly from the Sun in Solar Proton Events (SPEs) associated with larger X-ray flares.

Opportunities exist to assist in analysis of results of recent spacecraft component initial radiation testing, and also participate in follow-up testing. The model results could also potentially be compared with data from spacecraft missions, such as the NASA Radiation Belt Storm Probes.



Tagged in Honours projects - Physics, Honours projects - David Neuddegg, Honours in Physics subtheme - Space and atmospheric