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Solar Orbiter SWA/PAS

Detect or Electronics for Proton-Alpha Sensor

Solar Orbiter SWA/PAS

Project duration: 2011 to 2018

Project manager: Lubomír Přech

Under supervision of the French Research Institute in Astrophysics and Planetology (Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie, IRAP) the Space Physics Laboratory develops an electronic board for the Proton-Alpha Sensor (PAS) block belonging to the SWA suite (international consortium Solar Wind plasma Analyzer lead by the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, MSSL from the United Kingdom), as part of the interplanetary mission Solar Orbiter (SO) being prepared by the European Space Agency ESA (scheduled launch in 2018).

The SO will make unique observations inside the orbit of Mercury that trace the build-up of magnetic energy from the photosphere through the corona, and then directly measure the products of solar eruptions in the plasma propelled through space as Coronal Mass Ejections. The Solar Wind Plasma Analyzer (SWA) suite as one of the 10 SO instruments comprises of three measurement units – the Electron Analyzer Sensor (EAS), the Proton/Alpha Sensor (PAS), and Heavy Ion Sensor (HIS) and the common Data Processing Unit (DPU). The SWA sensor suite will measure between 0.28 and 1.4 Sun-Earth distance the density, velocity, and temperature of solar wind ions and electrons as well as the ion composition for key elements (e.g. the C, N, O group and Fe, Si or Mg).

The PAS board design by the Space Physics Laboratory includes mechanical holders, collectors, and hybrid pulse charge preamplifiers for 11 ion detectors - ceramic channel electron multipliers (CEM) and a pair of high voltage converters 0.3 - 4 kV to supply the CEMs. The preamplifiers together with test stimulation circuits allow to register fluxes of up to 107 part./s in each channel.

The detector board design takes into account a radiation dose 100 krad estimated for the SO spacecraft during its 10-year lifetime. Other PAS block components (deflector and electrostatic analyzer with related HV sources, electronics of DC/DC converter and digital control) are provided by IRAP.

The Space Physics Laboratory of Charles University in Prague

The Space Physics Laboratory is oriented to experimental investigations of the space plasma and dust environment providing design and development of space plasma instruments and diagnostic methods for solar wind, magnetospheric, and ionospheric international research projects. The research is predominantly focused on Sun-Earth relationships and space weather by studying parameters of plasma, charged particles, and waves mainly in the solar wind and its discontinuities (incl. interplanetary shocks), and related processes in the Earth‘s magnetosphere. Further research areas are investigations of the turbulence and electromagnetic waves in the geospace and laboratory simulations of dust charging in space.

What would you name as main benefits?

This project promises a continuity of our scientific research with new unique satellite data, it has enabled our direct membership in a big prestigious scientific consortium, collaboration with new foreign and national scientific laboratories and industrial subjects, and it brought us a further working experience with development of space instrumentation according to CNES-ESA standards, application of new technologies in space instrument design (HV converters with high efficiency), and sharing know-how with international partners. Thanks to this project we were also invited to work on other forthcoming space projects.”