Concepts and Results of New Method for Accurate Ground and In-Flight Calibration of the Particle Spectrometers of the Fast Plasma Investigation on NASA’s Magnetospheric MultiScale Mission
Abstract:The Fast Plasma Investigation (FPI) on NASA’s Magnetospheric MultiScale (MMS) mission employs 16 Dual Electron Spectrometers and 16 Dual Ion Spectrometers with 4 of each type on each of 4 spacecraft to enable fast (30 ms for electrons; 150 ms for ions) and spatially differentiated measurements of the full 3D particle velocity distributions. This approach presents a new and challenging aspect to the calibration and operation of these instruments on ground and in flight. The response uniformity, the reliability of their calibration and the approach to handling any temporal evolution of these calibrated characteristics all assume enhanced importance in this application, where we attempt to understand the meaning of particle distributions within the ion and electron diffusion regions of magnetically reconnecting plasmas.
We have developed a detailed model of the spectrometer detection system, its behavior and its signal, crosstalk and noise sources. Based on this, we have devised a new calibration method that enables accurate and repeatable measurement of micro-channel plate (MCP) gain, signal loss due to variation in MCP gain and crosstalk effects in one single measurement. The foundational concepts of this new calibration method, named threshold scan, are presented. It is shown how this method has been successfully applied both on ground and in-flight to achieve highly accurate and precise calibration of all 64 spectrometers. Calibration parameters that will evolve in flight are determined daily providing a robust characterization of sensor suite performance, as a basis for both in-situ hardware adjustment and data processing to scientific units, throughout mission lifetime. This is shown to be very desirable as the instruments will produce higher quality raw science data that will require smaller post-acquisition data‑corrections using results from in-flight derived pitch angle distribution measurements and ground calibration measurements. The practical application of the method is presented together with the achieved calibration results from both ground and in-flight calibration. Finally, we will present the residual post-processing correction performed from in-flight derived pitch angle distribution measurements of the science data acquired with the calibrated spectrometers.