In-flight verification of avalanche photodiodes: avenue to a low-cost solution to measure suprathermal particles for future missions

Friday, 19 December 2014
Keiichi Ogasawara1, John W Bonnell2, Eric R Christian3, Mihir Indrajit Desai1, Guy Alan Grubbs II4, Jörg-Micha Jahn5, Stefano A Livi6, Shrikanth G Kanekal3, Kristie Llera4, David J McComas7, Robert Michell1, Marilia Samara8 and Sarah K. Vines4, (1)Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, TX, United States, (2)University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, United States, (3)NASA GSFC, Greenbelt, MD, United States, (4)University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX, United States, (5)Southwest Research Inst, San Antonio, TX, United States, (6)SwRI, San Antonio, TX, United States, (7)Southwest Research Institute San Antonio, San Antonio, TX, United States, (8)NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, United States
Flight operation results and plans of Avalanche Photodiodes (APDs) to measure suprathermal particles (a ~few keV up to ~100s of keV) are summarized in this presentation.

Ions and electrons in this energy range play crucial roles in many fundamental processes of space plasmas including particle heating and acceleration, providing source material for the energetic particles accelerated near the Sun, the heliosphere, and in geospace. Characterizing these populations poses serious technical challenges because this energy region lies between the two most commonly used particle detection techniques, i.e., that used by thermal or plasma instruments and by Solid-State Detector (SSD)–based energetic particle telescopes, which are limited by typical SSD threshold energies of >10s keV. Our previous work has already demonstrated that a new type of low-noise, low-threshold Avalanche Photo-Diode (APD) has an intrinsic noise level of 0.9 keV, and can therefore enable high-energy resolution measurements of suprathermal electrons and ions. In addition, APDs provide suitable solutions for space plasma detectors in low-cost missions/platform because of their light-weight, small-size, power-saving features.

This study presents two low-cost missions (a sounding rocket and a CubeSat) that implement APDs as particle detectors: (1) The Medium-energy Electron SPectrometer (MESP) sensor aboard a sounding rocket was launched from Poker Flat Research Range on 3 March 2014 as a part of Ground-to-Rocket Electrodynamics-Electrons Correlative Experiment (GREECE) mission. MESP successfully measured the precipitating electrons from 2 to 200 keV in 100-ms time resolution by using 2 APDs and 1 SSD. We show the overall results and the comparison with an MCP-based instrument results. (2) The Miniaturized Electron and pRoton Telescope (MERiT) on the Compact Radiation bElt Explorer (CeREs) to study charged particle dynamics in the Earth’s radiation belts. CeREs will be flown as part of a 3U CubeSat in a high-inclination low-Earth orbit in 2015. MERiT is designed to measure suprathermal to relativistic electrons from ~5 keV up to10 MeV, and 4 APDs will be applied to cover the lower portion of the energy range. Along with the calibration efforts, we will present predicted in-orbit performances of these APD detectors in the CeREs mission.