Shorting Factor In-Flight Calibration for the Van Allen Probes DC Electric Field Measurements in the Earth\textquoterights Plasmasphere

Satellite-based direct electric field measurements deliver crucial information for space science studies. Yet they require meticulous design and calibration. In-flight calibration of double-probe instruments is usually presented in the most common case of tenuous plasmas, where the presence of an electrostatic structure surrounding the charged spacecraft alters the geophysical electric field measurements. To account for this effect and the uncertainty in the boom length, the measured electric field is multiplied by a parameter called the shorting factor (sf). In the plasmasphere, the Debye length is very small in comparison with spacecraft dimension, and there is no shorting of the electric field measurements (sf = 1). However, the electric field induced by spacecraft motion greatly exceeds any geophysical electric field of interest in the plasmasphere. Thus, the highest level of accuracy in calibration is required. The objective of this work is to discuss the accuracy of the setting sf = 1 and therefore to examine the accuracy of Van Allen Probes electric field measurements below L = 2. We introduce a method to determine the shorting factor near perigee. It relies on the idea that the value of the geophysical electric field measured in the Earth\textquoterights rotating frame of reference is independent of whether the spacecraft is approaching perigee or past perigee, that is, it is independent of spacecraft velocity. We obtain that sf = 0.994 \textpm 0.001. The resulting margins of errors in individual electric drift measurements are of the order of \textpm0.1\% of spacecraft velocity (a few meters per second).
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Earth and Space Science
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