Space Environment Testing

STI Personnel: Dr. Kenneth Wright

USRA/STI’s Dr. Ken Wright performed space environments Image of the Solar Probe Cup from Parker Solar Probe in the Space Weather Facility at Marshall Space Flight Center.effects testing on several hardware related items of NASA’s upcoming Europa Clipper mission which is led by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in partnership with the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL). The NASA/MSFC Solar Wind Facility (SWF) was used to verify instrument design (e.g., energy range and angle range) for the Plasma Instrument for Magnetic Sounding (PIMS).  PIMS role on Europa Clipper is to measure the plasma currents in Jupiter’s magnetosphere. JHU/APL is the Principal Investigator institution for PIMS. 

Jupiter, located about 5 AU from the Sun, receives only 4% of the light intensity as compared to Earth along with possessing a much more intense radiation environment. Spacecraft materials and instruments must be carefully selected and designed to survive this cold and severe radiation environment.  Various candidate spacecraft thermal control coatings and cables designs were tested at cold temperatures against electrostatic discharge susceptibility using various electrons Parker Solar Probe first findings from Kaspter et al., 2019sources. The information from this test campaign contributed toward successful completion of the mission Critical Design Review.  Picture credit: Todd Schneider/NASA.

SWF is the same facility used previously in the calibration of the Solar Probe Cup for the Parker Solar Probe (PSP) mission launched on August 12, 2018. Data from PSP can be accessed by consulting the following website
The Solar Probe Cup is part of the Solar Wind Electrons, Alphas, and Protons (SWEAP) instrument on PSP. Data for SWEAP can be accessed directly here. PSP was awarded a NASA Silver Achievement Medal in November 2019. The figure to the right (from Kasper et al., 2019) shows first findings from the SWEAP instrument concerning the large circulation of solar wind observed near Sun.

Other Programs Supported:

  • Space Radiation

  • Space Weather

  • Lunar Lander