Five spacecraft-plasma models are used to simulate the interaction of a simplified geometry Solar Probe Plus (SPP) satellite with the space environment under representative solar wind conditions near perihelion. By considering similarities and differences between results obtained with different numerical approaches under well defined conditions, the consistency and validity of our models can be assessed. The impact on model predictions of physical effects of importance in the SPP mission is also considered by comparing results obtained with and without these effects. Simulation results are presented and compared with increasing levels of complexity in the physics of interaction between solar environment and the SPP spacecraft. The comparisons focus particularly on spacecraft floating potentials, contributions to the currents collected and emitted by the spacecraft, and on the potential and density spatial profiles near the satellite. The physical effects considered include spacecraft charging, photoelectron and secondary electron emission, and the presence of a background magnetic field. Model predictions obtained with our different computational approaches are found to be in agreement within 2% when the same physical processes are taken into account and treated similarly. The comparisons thus indicate that, with the correct description of important physical effects, our simulation models should have the required skill to predict details of satellite-plasma interaction physics under relevant conditions, with a good level of confidence. Our models concur in predicting a negative floating potential for SPP at perihelion. They also predict a “saturated emission regime” whereby most emitted photo- and secondary electron will be reflected by a potential barrier near the surface, back to the spacecraft where they will be recollected.
Cross-comparison of spacecraft-environment interaction model predictions applied to Solar Probe Plus near perihelion
R. Marchand, Y. Miyake, H. Usui, J. Deca, G. Lapenta, J. C. Matéo-Vélez, R. E. Ergun, A. Sturner, V. Génot, A. Hilgers, S. Markidis; Cross-comparison of spacecraft-environment interaction model predictions applied to Solar Probe Plus near perihelion. Phys. Plasmas 1 June 2014; 21 (6): 062901. https://doi.org/10.1063/1.4882439
Download citation file: