Plasma and Magnetic Shielding for Spacecraft Protection

Open Access
Braga Nogueira Branco, Ricardo
Area of Honors:
Aerospace Engineering
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Dr. Sean D. Knecht, Thesis Supervisor
  • Dr. Mark Maughmer, Honors Advisor
  • high-energy
  • micrometeoroids
  • plasma
  • solar wind
  • space dust
An approach for electromagnetic deflection of high energy particles, space dust, and micrometeoroids for the purpose of protecting spacecraft is investigated. First, a general equation system is established, with the most significant force component being that from the Lorentz force. An additional mechanism for aiding the deflection through the means of increasing the charge of the particle when in contact with an artificial plasma is presented. Various results from simulations are shown, taking into account different spacecraft and plasma parameters. High energy protons are successfully deflected by solely using a field on the order of 10-4 Tesla. Some micrometeoroids in the microgram weight range are also deflected with magnetic field and plasma density on the order of 100 Tesla and 1015 m-3, respectively. Heavier micrometeoroids on the range of a microgram are seen to be deflected at extremely high magnetic fields on the order of 4000 Tesla at head-on trajectories. Unless a new technological breakthrough occurs in this area, such a high field is impossible to currently engineer. However, a 100 Tesla field makes deflection possible for 70.8 percent of 1000 particles simulated using random trajectories for the same microgram particle in a 1015 m-3 artificial plasma. Future work will include analyzing more simulation results for different initial conditions, including but not limited to studying high-energy cosmic ray deflection. In addition, current technology readiness level studies and cost analysis shall be performed.