Characterization of Multi Plate Field Mill for Lunar Deployment
Abstract: During the Apollo 10 and 17 missions NASA astronauts reported that they saw streamers emanating from the surface of the moon. They concluded that the streamers were produced by light scattering from dust particles. The particles are believed to be transported by an ambient electric field. This theorized electric field has never been measured directly, although the electric potential on the surface and above it has. The exact behavior and origin of the electric field is unknown, but has been approximated to be between 1 and 12 V/m. To measure this electrical field a new type of instrument, called Multi Plate Field Mills (MPFM) has been developed. This type of instrument is capable of measuring both the amplitude and directionality of the electrical field. Three of these instruments will be mounted on a 1U CubeSat to be lunched with the PTS mission to the moon scheduled to Q4 2019. In this work the MPFM were characterized. The precision of the instrument for electrical fields applied along the z, y and x axis was found to be 0.6, 1.3, 1.4 (V/m)/(Hz)^(1/2) respectively for measurements in air and 0.14, 0.6, 0.6 (V/m)/(Hz)^(1/2) for measurements in vacuum. This sensitivity outperforms the current state of the art Field Mills and, in addition to that, it provides an assessment of the directionality of the electrical field.
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