Open Access

Table 6

INAF ground-based facilities for space instrument development, testing, and calibrations.

Facility Description Contacts Location and ownership Specifications Available tests
Plasma Chamber SWIPS (Solar Wind and Ionospheric Plasma Simulator) The plasma chamber developed at INAF-IAPS is a facility capable to reproduce a large volume of both the ionospheric and the solar wind plasma. Piero Diego; The SWIPS plasma chamber is an INAF facility and it is located in the experimental building of INAF-IAPS, in Rome, Via del Fosso del Cavaliere 100. Experimental volume ≈ 9 m3 1 – calibration of plasma diagnostic sensors (Langmuir probes, Retarding Potential Analyzer, …);
Its peculiarity is mainly due to sources that produce a plasma with parameters (i.e. electron density, temperature, and ion energies) very close to the values encountered in the ionosphere and in the interplanetary space. Ionospheric plasma features: 2 – functional tests of experiments envisaged to operate in a ionospheric environment (sensors exposed to space plasma);
The plasma generated by the source is accelerated into the chamber at a velocity that can be tuned to simulate both the relative motion between an object orbiting in space and the ionosphere (≅8 km/s) and the velocity of solar wind (>300 km/s). This feature, in particular, allows laboratory simulations of compression and depletion phenomena typical of the ram and wake regions around ionospheric satellites. m i = 40 a.u. (Ar) 3 – characterization and compatibility tests of components for space applications (materials, satellite paints, photo-voltaic cells, etc.);
T e = 1000–3000 K
n e ≈ n i ≈ 1011–1012m−3
v i ≈ 8 km/s
In addition, the facility is equipped with a two-axis magnetic coil system capable to control the ambient magnetic field. Thus, the plasma beam and the magnetic field pattern can be set to reproduce the conditions encountered by satellites in both equatorial and polar orbits. Solar wind plasma features: 4 – basic plasma physics experiments (interaction of charged bodies with plasma, two plasma interaction processes, propulsion and power generation in space through electrodynamic tethers);
The magnitude of the field can be varied between 10−6 and 10−4 T. The residual field is sufficient to consider the plasma non magnetized, being the electron gyroradius (with T e ≅ 2000 K) of the same order of the chamber dimensions (i.e. the electron motion is not dominated by the field but rather by collisions with the chamber wall). m i = 4 a.u. (He), 5 – tests on active experiments which use cathodes and/or plasma sources (ion thruster, ion beam neutralizers, hollow cathodes, field effect emitters, plasma contactors).
T e = 10,000–20,000 K,
n e ≈n i ≈ 107 m−3,
v i ≈ 330 km/s

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