Laboratory measurements of the performances of the Sweeping Langmuir Probe instrument aboard the PICASSO CubeSat
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The Sweeping Langmuir Probe (SLP) is one of the instruments on board the triple-unit CubeSat PICASSO, an ESA in-orbit demonstrator launched in September 2020, which is flying at about 540 km altitude. SLP comprises four small cylindrical probes mounted at the tip of the solar panels. It aims to perform in situ measurements of the plasma parameters (electron density and temperature together with ion density) and of the spacecraft potential in the ionosphere. Before the launch, the instrument, accommodated on an electrically representative PICASSO mock-up, was tested in a plasma chamber. It is shown that the traditional orbital-motion-limited collection theory used for cylindrical Langmuir probes cannot be applied directly for the interpretation of the measurements because of the limited dimensions of the probes with respect to the Debye length in the ionosphere. Nevertheless, this method can be adapted to take into account the short length of the probes. To reduce the data downlink while keeping the most important information in the current-voltage characteristics, SLP includes an on-board adaptive sweeping capability. This functionality has been validated in both the plasma chamber and in space, and it is demonstrated that with a reduced number of data points the electron retardation and electron saturation regions can be well resolved. Finally, the effect of the contamination of the probe surface, which can be a serious issue in Langmuir probe data analysis, has been investigated. If not accounted for properly, this effect could lead to substantial errors in the estimation of the electron temperature.
CitationRanvier, S.; Lebreton, J.-P. (2023). Laboratory measurements of the performances of the Sweeping Langmuir Probe instrument aboard the PICASSO CubeSat. , Geoscientific Instrumentation, Methods and Data Systems, Vol. 12, Issue 1, 1-13, DOI: 10.5194/gi-12-1-2023.