Ion Plume Damage in Formation Flight Regimes
Young, Jarred Alexander
Sedwick, Raymond J
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This effort examines the potential for damage from plume impingement from an electric propulsion system within spacecraft missions that utilize a formation flight architecture. Specifically, the potential erosion of a structural material (Aluminum) and anti-reflective coatings for solar cell coverglass are explored. Sputter yields for the materials of Aluminum, Magnesium Fluoride, and Indium Tin Oxide are experimentally validated using an electrostatic ion source at energies varying from 500-1500 eV. Erosion depths are analyzed using white-light optical profilometry to measure potential depths up to 1 µm. This erosion data was then utilized to create (or augment) Bohdansky and Yamamura theoretical curve fits for multiple incidence angles to look at theoretical sputter effects within formation flight regimes at multiple formation distances from 50-1000 m. The damage from these electric propulsion plumes is explored throughout multiple orbital conditions from LEO, Sun-Synchronous, and GEO. Factors affecting erosion are: plume density, local geomagnetic field environment and incidence angles of target surfaces. Results from this simulated study show significant erosion with GEO with minor erosion in some LEO and all Sun-Synchronous cases.