Solar wind buffets Earth's magnetic field

Electromagnetics and Space Environment

While electricity is a satellite's lifeblood, there can sometimes be too much of a good thing. While ensuring the desired reception and transmission of signals, electrical currents induce electric and magnetic fields, which can cause interference and degrade spacecraft performance. And there are environmental threats that spacecraft designers must bear in mind.

What is the Electromagnetics and Space Environment domain?

Electromagnetics and Space Environment encompasses two technical fields: one concerned with issues of electromagnetic transmission, reception, propagation and interaction, and another looking at the troublesome effects of the orbital environment.

On the “desired effects” side the main topics are antenna design and study of the propagation of electromagnetic waves, in particular through the atmosphere and in other complex environments (e.g. how the signal coming from a satellite propagates in a city with tall buildings and within them).

All spacecraft require electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) between their various equipment and subsystems, which demands a dedicated test campaign.

Antennas are the single most sensitive satellite element to interference, because they operate by deliberately turning electromagnetic fields into electric currents and vice versa. The work includes modelling and testing how spacecraft designs might affect antenna performance, taking account of adjacent electrical fields, reflecting surfaces and other potential radio frequency interactions.

Either used for communication between a transmitter and a receiver, for accurate positioning in navigation systems or as a mean to probe the environment as it is the case for remote sensing, electromagnetic waves do also interact in a complex way with the natural environment.

Assessing the performance of satellite receivers combined with ground station antennas for telemetry, tracking and telecommand (TT&C) applications is another core activity.

The natural space environment consists of high energy particle radiation, plasmas, gases, and particulates and the sub-domain “space environments and effects” includes evaluatons of these environments and their effects on space systems.

Last update: 21 February 2012

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