Ionospheric Simulator (IonSim): Simulating Ionospheric conditions in a vacuum chamber

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Virginia Tech


Understanding and improving ionospheric models is important for both military and civilian purposes. This understanding improves prediction of radio propagation used for communication and GPS navigation. Various space-borne instruments, such as retarding potential analyzers (RPAs) and ion traps are routinely flown in low earth orbit (LEO) to provide data for seeding/improve ionospheric models. This thesis describes and characterizes a new ion source that can be used to test and calibrate these space-borne instruments inside a laboratory vacuum chamber. Hot filaments are used to thermionically emit electrons inside the source. These electrons collisionally ionize neutral particles inside the source. Guided by ion-optics simulations, the ion and the electron trajectories inside the source are controlled to provide the required ion beams. A detailed description of the control electronics and the embedded controller for electron emission is discussed within. Using the custom made electronics, the source is able to provide an ion beam with current densities and mean energy comparable to the conditions in LEO.



Ion source, Ionosphere, vacuum chamber, Low Earth Orbit