The general characteristics and system level concepts for space-based magnetometers are presented to illustrate the instruments, principles, and tools involved in making accurate magnetic field measurements in space. Special consideration is given to the most important practical problems that need to be solved to ensure the accuracy of the measurements and their overall impact on system design and mission costs. Several types of instruments used to measure magnetic fields aboard spacecraft and their capabilities and limitations are described according to whether they measure scalar or vector fields. The very large dynamic range associated with magnetic fields of natural origin generally dictates the use of optimized designs for each particular space mission although some wide-range, multimission magnetometers have been developed and used. Earth-field magnetic mapping missions are the most demanding in terms of absolute accuracy and resolution, approaching <1 part in 100 000 in magnitude and a few arcsec in direction. The difficulties of performing sensitive measurements aboard spacecraft, which may not be magnetically clean, represent a fundamental problem which must be addressed immediately at the planning stages of any space mission that includes these measurements. The use of long, deployable booms to separate the sensors from the sources of magnetic contamination, and their impact on system design are discussed. The dual magnetometer technique, which allows the separation of fields of external and spacecraft origin, represents an important space magnetometry tool which can result in significant savings in complex contemporary spacecraft built with minimum magnetic constraints. Techniques for in-flight estimation of magnetometer biases and sensor alignment are discussed briefly, and highlight some basic considerations within the scope and complexity of magnetic field data processing and reduction. The emerging field of space weather is also discussed, including the essential role that space-based magnetic field measurements play in this complex science, which is just in its infancy. Finally, some considerations for the future of space-based magnetometers are presented. Miniature, mass produced sensors based on magnetoresistance effects and micromachined structures have made significant advances in sensitivity but have yet to reach the performance level required for accurate space measurements. The miniaturization of spacecraft and instruments to reduce launch costs usually results in significantly increased magnetic contamination problems and degraded instrument performance parameters, a challenge that has yet to be solved satisfactorily for “world-class” science missions. The rapidly disappearing manufacturing capabilities for high-grade, low noise, soft magnetic materials of the Permalloy family is a cause of concern for the development of high performance fluxgate magnetometers for future space missions.
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Review Article| October 25 2002
Mario H. Acuña; Space-based magnetometers. Rev. Sci. Instrum. 1 November 2002; 73 (11): 3717–3736. https://doi.org/10.1063/1.1510570
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