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- Six different types of solar arrays have been tested in large vacuum chambers. The low earth orbit plasma environment was simulated in plasma vacuum chambers, where the parameters could be controlled precisely. Diagnostic equipment included spherical Langmuir probes, mass spectrometer, low-noise CCD camera with optical spectrometer, video camera, very sensitive current probe to measure arc current, and a voltage probe to register variations in a conductor potential. All data (except video) were obtained in digital form that allowed us to study the correlation between external parameters (plasma density, additional capacitance, bias voltage, etc) and arc characteristics (arc rate, arc current pulse width and amplitude, gas species partial pressures, and intensities of spectral lines). Arc inception voltages, arc rates, and current selections are measured for samples with different coverglass materials and thickness, interconnect designs, and cell sizes. It is shown that the array with wrapthrough interconnects have the highest arc threshold and the lowest current collection. Coverglass design with overhang results in decrease of current collection and increase of arc threshold. Doubling coverglass thickness cases the increase in arc inception voltage. Both arc inception voltage and current collection increase significantly with increasing a sample temperature to 80 C. Sustained discharges are initiated between adjacent cells with potential differences of 40 V for the sample with 300 micron coverglass thickness and 60 V for the sample with 150 micron coverglass thickness. Installation of cryogenic pump in large vacuum chamber provided the possibility of considerable outgassing of array surfaces which resulted in significant decrease of arc rate. Arc sites were determined by employing a video-camera, and it is shown that the most probable sites for arc inception are triple-junctions, even though some arcs were initiated in gaps between cells. It is also shown that the arc rate increases with increasing of ion collection current. The analysis of optical spectra (240-800 nm) reveals intensive narrow atomic lines (Ag, H) and wide molecular bands (OH, CH, SiH, SiN) that confirms a complicated mechanism of arc plasma generation. The results obtained seem to be important for the understanding of the arc inception mechanism, which is absolutely essential for progress toward the design of high-voltage solar array for space application.
- Other Subject(s):
- NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS) Collection.
- Document ID: 20040027858.
8th Spacecraft Charging Technology Conference; 20-24 Oct. 2003; Huntsville, AL; United States.
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