A Framework for Validation and Testing of a CubeSat Retarding Potential Analyzer
Noel, Stephen Elliott
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Traditionally, Retarding Potential Analyzers (RPAs) operate exclusively on large satellites due to the size, power, and mass constraints posed by nano-satellites like CubeSats. These sensors take in-situ measurements of Earth's atmospheric ion current during a range of time-varied ``retarding" voltage steps. Curve-fitting the retarding voltage versus collected current data provides derived measurements of ion density, ram velocity, and temperature. In order to successfully miniaturize these instruments and validate their performance prior to launch, thorough calibration and comprehensive end-to-end testing must be performed. This paper discusses the difficulties of performing complete system validation in ground-based vacuum chamber testing for RPAs. A procedure for RPA instrument calibration will be presented along with the calibration results for the Lower Atmosphere/Ionosphere Coupling Experiment (LAICE) CubeSat RPA. This paper presents a user-friendly and robust software control suite developed to read, parse, and interpret the data from the LAICE RPA. Electronics noise testing and analysis defines the performance boundaries of the instrument electronics. End-to-end testing of the LAICE RPA with a hot-filament ion source simulating the space plasma verifies the function of the LAICE RPA sensor and electronics, as well as the software control, thus qualifying the instrument for on-orbit use.
- Masters Theses