Secondary charging effects due to icy dust particle impacts on rocket payloads
We report measurements of dust currents obtained with a small probe and a larger probe during the flight of the ECOMA-4 rocket through the summer polar mesosphere. The payload included two small dust probes behind a larger dust probe located centrally at the front. For certain phases of the payload rotation, the current registered by one of the small dust probes was up to 2 times the current measured with the larger probe, even though the effective collection area of the larger probe was 4 times that of the small one. We analyze the phase dependence of the currents and their difference with a model based on the assumption that the small probe was hit by charged dust fragments produced in collisions of mesospheric dust with the payload body. Our results confirm earlier findings that secondary charge production in the collision of a noctilucent cloud/Polar Summer Mesospheric Echo (NLC/PMSE) dust particle with the payload body must be several orders of magnitude larger than might be expected from laboratory studies of collisions of pure ice particles with a variety of clean surfaces. An important consequence is that for some payload configurations, one should not assume that the current measured with a detector used to study mesospheric dust is simply proportional to the number density of ambient dust particles. The higher secondary charge production may be due to the NLC/PMSE particles containing multiple meteoric smoke particles.
CitationAnnales Geophysicae 30(2012) nr. 3 s. 433-439
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