Unique Capabilities of the Situational Awareness Sensor Suite for the ISS (SASSI) Mission Concept to Study the Equatorial Ionosphere

Monday, 15 December 2014
Brian E. Gilchrist1, Linda Habash Krause2, Joseph I Minow3, Dennis Lee Gallagher3, Walter R Hoegy1,4, Victoria N Coffey3 and Emily M Willis3, (1)University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI, United States, (2)NASA Marshall Space Flght Ctr, Huntsville, AL, United States, (3)NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL, United States, (4)Leelanau Research, Empire, MI, United States
We present an overview of a mission concept named Situational Awareness Sensor Suite for the ISS (SASSI) with a special focus here on low-latitude ionospheric plasma turbulence measurements relevant to equatorial spread-F. SASSI is a suite of sensors that improves Space Situational Awareness for the ISS local space environment, as well as unique ionospheric measurements and support active plasma experiments on the ISS. As such, the mission concept has both operational and basic research objectives.

We will describe two compelling measurement techniques enabled by SASSI's unique mission architecture. That is, SASSI provides new abilities to 1) measure space plasma potentials in low Earth orbit over ~100 m relative to a common potential, and 2) to investigate multi-scale ionospheric plasma turbulence morphology simultaneously of both ~ 1 cm and ~ 10 m scale lengths. The first measurement technique will aid in the distinction of vertical drifts within equatorial plasma bubbles from the vertical motions of the bulk of the layer due to zonal electric fields. The second will aid in understanding ionospheric plasma turbulence cascading in scale sizes that affect over the horizon radar.

During many years of ISS operation, we have conducted effective (but not perfect) human and robotic extravehicular activities within the space plasma environment surrounding the ISS structure. However, because of the complexity of the interaction between the ISS and the space environment, there remain important sources of unpredictable environmental situations that affect operations. Examples of affected systems include EVA safety, solar panel efficiency, and scientific instrument integrity. Models and heuristically-derived best practices are well-suited for routine operations, but when it comes to unusual or anomalous events or situations, there is no substitute for real-time monitoring.

SASSI is being designed to deploy and operate a suite of low-cost, medium/high-TRL plasma sensors on the ISS Express Logistics Carrier for long-term observations and the Space Station Remote Manipulator System for short-term focused campaigns. The presentation will include a description of the instrument complement and an overview of the operations concept.