Idealized sheath theory and satellite charge-up in the Van Allen region.

by G. E. Modesitt

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A continuation of the investigation of the effects of the space environment on artificial earth satellites. As a possible contribution in determining the electric potential of naturally charged satellites, the concept of the idealized sheath introduced by Langmuir and Mott-Smith is studied through the use of distribution functions. It is shown that the functions are discontinuous in velocity variables and lead to the same results as particle trajectory theory. The limitations of the sheath theory and its connection with space-charge-limited diode theory are discussed. It is also shown that under certain assumptions the potential on a satellite whose diameter is smaller than the local Debye length will reach 3500 volts negative in the more intense regions of the Van Allen electron belt. The equilibrium potential decreases with increasing size of the satellite, with a limiting value of -35,000 volts for satellites much greater than the Debye length in diameter.

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