the geomagnetic field and its measurement

the geomagnetic field and its measurement
The earth's magnetic field, its measurement by conventional methods, and the specific objectives and functions of the Magsat system to obtain precise absolute and directional values of the
earth's magnetic field on a global scale are briefly described.
The directional property of the earth's magnetic
field has been appreciated by the Chinese for more
than 4500 years. Records indicate ' that in 2634 B.C.
the Chinese emperor Hoang-Ti was at war with a
local prince named Tchi-Yeou and that they fought
a great battle in the plain of Tcho-Iuo. Tchi-Yeou
raised a dense fog that produced disorder in the
imperial army - a forerunner of the modern
smokescreen. As a countermeasure, Hoang-Ti constructed a chariot on which stood the small figure
of a man with his arm outstretched. This figure,
apparently free to revolve on its vertical axis,
always pointed to the south, allowing the emperor
to locate the direction of his enemy's retreat. TchiYeou was captured and put to death.
The first systematic and scientific study of the
earth's magnetic field was conducted by William
Gilbert, physician (later promoted to electrician) to
Queen Elizabeth, who published in 1600 his proclamation "Magnus magnes ipse est globus terrestrius" (the earth globe itself is a great magnet)
in his De Magnete. 2 This treatise was published
nearly a century before Newton's Philosophiae
Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1687), and it has
been suggested that Gilbert invented the whole process of modern science rather than merely having
discovered the basic laws of magnetism and of
static electricity. 3 Gilbert's efforts may have been
inspired by the need for Her Majesty's Navy to improve (if not understand) the principal means of
navigation - the magnetic compass. This fact is
evident from the frontispiece of the second Latin
edition of De Magnete, (Fig. 1) published in 1628.
An understanding of the earth's magnetic field
and its variations is still of great importance to
navigators. (More recently the U.S. Navy has "inspired" APL to develop and improve a more advanced satellite system for navigation.) The geo162
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Fig. 1- The engraved title page from the second Latin
edition of Gilbert's De Magnete. It shows lodestones,
compasses, and a terrella (a small spherical magnet simulating the earth, in the upper left corner). In a vignette at
the bottom is a ship sailing away from a floating bowl
compass with a terrelia at the center. The first edition of
De Magnete was published in 1600, and copies have
become extremely rare.
magnetic field also plays an important practical
role in searching for possible resources beneath the
earth's crust and in stabilizing artificial satellites.
Major disturbances to the geomagnetic field called "magnetic storms" - induce large, unJohns Hopkins APL Technical Digest
wanted effects in long-distance telephone circuits
and sometimes cause widespread power blackouts.
The geomagnetic field and its interaction with the
continuous flow of ionized gas (plasma) from the
sun (the solar wind) provide the basic framework
for the complicated space environment of the
earth, including the Van Allen radiation belts and
auroral zones. The distorted configuration of its
geomagnetic field is called the "magnetosphere."
Many APL-built spacecraft have made major contributions to an understanding of the geomagnetic
field and associated magnetospheric phenomena
during the past 15 years. Magsat is the latest one to
do so.
The geomagnetic field can be thought of as being
produced by a huge bar magnet imbedded in the
earth, with the axis of the magnet tilted away
slightly from the earth's rotational axis. The poles
of this magnet are located near Thule, Greenland,
and Vostok, Antarctica (a U .S.S. R. research station). To a good approximation, the geomagnetic
field can be represented by a simple dipole, but
there is a significant contribution from nondipole
components and from a system of complicated currents that flow in the magnetospheric regions
surrounding the earth. The most accurate representation of the geomagnetic field is provided by a
series of spherical harmonic functions. -l The coefficients of such a series representation are evaluated
from an international set of spacecraft and surface
observations of the geomagnetic field and are published for a variety of practical uses in navigation
and resource surveys. A principal goal of Magsat is
to provide the most accurate evaluation of the geomagnetic field model in this manner (see the article
by Langel in this issue).
A wide variety of units and symbols are currently
in use in the many scientific and engineering fields
involved with magnetism. The following definitions
are offered in hope of clarifying some of these for
a better understanding of the following discussions.
Classic experiments have shown that the force
acting on a charged particle moving in a magnetic
field is proportional to the magnitude of the
charge. A vector quantity known as the "magnitude induction" is usually denoted by B which
characterizes the magnetic field in a manner similar
Volume I, Number 3,1980
to that done for electric fields by E, for example.
This unit of induction, B, is 1 weber per square
meter (1 Wb/m2); it is the magnetic induction of a
field in which 1 coulomb of charge, moving with a
component of velocity of 1 m / s perpendicular to
the field, is acted on by a force of 1 newton. In SI
units, 1 Wb/m 2 = 1 tesla.
In studies of planetary fields, where very small
fields are involved, the nanotesla (nT), formerly the
"gamma" (y), is used where 1 nT = 10.9
tesla = 10.9 Wb/m 2 = 1 'Y. (The cgs unit of
magnetic intensity is the gauss, where 1
tesla = 10 4 gauss.) The intensity of the surface
geomagnetic field varies from about 30,000 nT at
the equator to more than 50,000 nT at high
latitudes near the magnetic poles.
I t has been known for over 400 years that the
main geomagnetic field is not steady but experiences global secular variations. In fact, from a
study of the paleomagnetic properties of igneous
rocks, it has been determined that the geomagnetic
field has reversed polarity several times over the
past 4.5 million years (Fig. 2). 5
The behavior of the geomagnetic field over a
shorter time scale is shown in Fig. 3. That figure
shows the positions of the virtual geomagnetic pole
since 1000 A.D. based on the assumption that the
geomagnetic field is a centered dipole. (,
The following five features of the secular variation have been determined: 7
1. A decrease in the moment of the dipole field
by 0.05070 per year, indicating that the present
geomagnetic field may reverse polarity 2000
years from now. Preliminary analysis of Magsat data has revealed that this variation may
be more rapid than was suspected from previous observations, and that the field may reverse polarity in only 1400 years;
2. A westward precessional rotation of the dipole of 0.05 0 of longitude per year;
3. A rotation of the dipole toward the geographic axis of 0.020 of latitude per year;
4. A westward drift of the nondipole field of
0.20 of longitude per year;
5. Growth and decay of features of the nondipole field with average changes of about
10 nT per year.
Although these secular variations necessitate continual corrections to magnetic compasses they pro163
c::::J Normal fi eld
MIi lions of years before present
vide some clues to the internal source of the geomagnetic field.
If the average westward drift of the dipole field
in item 2 above is representative of the rate of motion of the field, then the corresponding surface
Fig. 3-The virtual geomagnetic pole positions since 1000
which correspond to the secular variations at London
if one ascribes the geomagnetic field entirely to a
centered dipole. The London variations were deduced
from magnetic field orientations of samples obtained
from archeological kilns , ovens, and hearths in the
southern half of Britain (from Ref. 6). The present virtual
pole is located near Thule, Greenland.
Fig. 2-The polarity of the
geomagnetic field for the past
4.5 million years deduced
from measurements on igneous rocks dated by the
potassium- argon method and
from measurements on cores
from ocean sediments (from
Ref. 5).
A.D .,
2.13 2.43 2.80
1.68 1.85 2.11
2.94 3.06
Reversed field
velocity is about 20 km per year. This is a million
times faster than the large-scale motions of the
solid part of the earth deduced from geological observations and considerations. Seismological evidence reveals a fluid core for the earth that can
easily experience large-scale motions, and it is presumed that the geomagnetic secular variation and indeed the main field itself - is related to this
fluid core. Furthermore, geochemical and density
considerations are consistent with a core composed
mainly of iron - a good electric and magnetic conductor. Therefore, the study of the earth's internal
magnetic field draws in another discipline - magnetohydrodynamics, which involves moving fluid
conductors and magnetic fields.
Modern theories of the geomagnetic field are
based on the original suggestion of Larmor that the
appropriate internal motion of a conducting fluid
could cause it to act as a self-exciting dynamo. 8 To
visualize this, assume the moving core to be an infinitely good conductor. Any primordial magnetic
field lines, outside the core, for example, will be
dragged around by the currents within the core as
if they were "frozen" into the core. If the core
rotates nonuniformly with depth, the field lines will
become twisted around the axis of rotation in a
way that opposes the initial field. The twisting action packs the magnetic field lines more closely,
causing the field intensity to grow. This growth can
neutralize the original field and produce an even
larger reversal field. The concept of magnetic field
amplification by the differential rotation of conductors has been used by astrophysicists to explain
the magnetic fields of stars (including the sun),
Jupiter, and Saturn. Many theories exist, but the
precise generation mechanisms for the internal
geomagnetic field are still unknown. 8
When viewed from outer space, the earth's
magnetic field does not resemble a simple dipole
Johns Hopkins APL Technical Digest
but is severely distorted into a comet-shaped
configuration by the continuous flow of plasma
(the solar wind) from the sun (depicted in Fig. 4).
This distortion demands the existence of a complicated set of currents flowing within the distorted
magnetic field configuration called the "magnetosphere." For example, the compression of the geomagnetic field by the solar wind plasma on the day
side of the earth must give rise to a large-scale
current flowing across the geomagnetic field lines,
called the Chapman-Ferraro or magnetopause current (see Fig. 4).
The magnetospheric system includes large-scale
currents that flow in the "tail"; "Birkeland" currents that flow along geomagnetic field lines (see
the article by Potemra in this issue) into and away
from the two auroral regions; the ring current that
flows at high altitudes around the equator of the
earth; and a complex system of currents that flow
completely within the layers of the ionosphere, the
earth's ionized atmosphere. The intensities of these
various currents reach millions of amperes and are
closely related to solar activity. They produce magnetic fields that vary with time scales ranging from
a few seconds (micropulsations) to 11 years (corresponding to the solar cycle).
Widespread magnetic disturbances sometimes observed over the entire surface of the earth are
known as magnetic storms. These storms are associated with major solar eruptions that emit X rays,
ultraviolet and extreme ultraviolet radiations, and
particles with energies from 1 keV to sometimes
over 100 MeV. The solar plasma accompanying solar eruptions causes a magnetic storm when it collides with the earth's magnetosphere. Minor mag-
Fig. 4- The configuration of the earth's dipole magnetic
field distorted into the comet-like shape called the magnetosphere. The various current systems that flow in this
complicated plasma laboratory are labeled. The interplanetary magnetic field is the magnetic field of the sun,
which has a modulating effect on the processes that occur within the magnetosphere.
Volume 1, Number 3, 1980
netic storms can occur every few weeks during the
peak of the II-year solar cycle (the peak of the
present cycle is thought to have occurred in 1980),
whereas "super" magnetic storms that so severely
distort the geomagnetic field as to move the entire
auroral zone to lower latitudes are a much rarer
event (the last super storm occurred on August 2,
1972, when an aurora was observed in Kentucky).
Besides the evaluation of models for the internal
geomagnetic field, Magsat, launched in October
1979, provided the most sensitive measurements yet
of the magnetospheric current system.
The technique of using airplanes for magnetic
field surveys for geological prospecting became well
established in the 1950's. Airplanes make their surveys at altitudes of 1 to 5 km, whereas satellites orbit the earth at 200 km or higher. Thus it was
somewhat of a surprise when scientists discovered
from the data of the Orbiting Geophysical Observatory satellites in 1972 that useful information
about the structure of the earth's crust could be
derived from satellite data - information that
would be very difficult to detect in airplane survey
data. Ideas for a satellite devoted to this objective
were discussed for a number of years, finally leading to the Magsat program, which had the additional objective of measuring the "main" field for
making new magnetic charts.
Preliminary discussions among APL, NASA, and
the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), commencing
in the mid-1970's, culminated in conceptual studies
of a spacecraft dedicated to the task of completing
a global survey of the earth's geomagnetic field.
NASA and the USGS subsequently entered into an
agreement to conduct such a program on a cooperative basis. The Goddard Space Flight Center
(GSFC) was selected by NASA as the lead laboratory for this endeavor. Numerous trade-off design
studies were undertaken, with emphasis on flying
an adaptation of an available spacecraft design,
launched from an early Space Shuttle, as against
flying a small spacecraft on a NASA/ DoD Scout
launch vehicle. However, in view of the uncertainties surrounding the availability of the Shuttle, and
in light of the desire of USGS to incorporate satellite magnetic field data into their 1980 map updates, the decision was made by early 1977 to proceed with a Scout-launched spacecraft.
In April 1977, after a successful preliminary design review, APL was funded to proceed with the
Magsat design and development effort with the
goal of launching the spacecraft by September 21,
1979, at a projected cost of about ten million
The Small Astronomical Satellite (SAS-3) had
been designed and built by APL and launched in
1975. Many of the features of SAS-3 seemed ideally suited to the magnetic field satellite mission. It
was a small spacecraft capable of being launched
by the inexpensive Scout rocket, it had the world's
most precise tracking system (i.e. , position determination) in its Doppler tracking system (a derivative
of the APL Transit system) , it had two star
trackers that could provide attitude determination
to 10 arc- s (I arc-s = 0.00028) accuracy , and it s
attitude control system used an infrared earthhorizon scanner/ momentum wheel assembly that
was ideally suited for Magsat. A critical problem,
which was quickly identified, was the excessive
weight of Mags at. Tape recorders with a larger
capacity for data storage were needed , and new Sband tran smitters were required for the high data
rate during tape recorder playback. Compromises
in the solar cell array were necessary to keep the
weight down to 182 kg, the maximum that the
Scout rocket could launch into a 350 by 500 km orbit.
An orbit was needed that would give full earth
coverage and a s little shadowing by the earth as
possible. A polar orbit would be ideal for earth
coverage, but because the orbit plane would remain
fixed in space, the motion of the earth about the
sun would cause shadowing of the satellite within
30 to 60 days after launch. Also, it would be difficult to find star camera orientation s that would not
present problems with direct sunlight. However, for
an orbit inclination of 9r, the orbit plane
precesses at the rate of 1 / day, just the right
amount to make the orbit plane follow the sun.
(This precession is due to the bulge in the earth's
gravity field at the equator.) Thi s sun-synchronous
orbit (Fig. 5) gives nearly 1000/0 earth coverage and
many months of full sunlit orbits. The star cameras
could be placed on the dark side of the satellite to
avoid direct sunlight.
Even in this case, as the sun approaches the
highest latitudes of + 23 on June 21, the orbit
would be shadowed in the south polar region.
Shadowing was expected to begin in April so a
launch date of September 1979 was chosen, which
would allow six months of fully sunlit orbits.
Launch actually occurred at the end of October
1979, so 5 Y2 months of fully sunlit orbits were obtained.
Magsat was intended to measure the vector components of the earth's field to an accuracy of
0.01 %; thi s meant that the orientation of the vector sensors must be known to 15 arc-s accuracy.
The star cameras were good to an accuracy of 10
arc-s, but they had 2 kg of essential magnetic
shielding that would distort the magnetic field. An
extendable boom was needed to put the vector sensors 6 meters away from the magnetic disturbance
caused by the star cameras. But it was not possible
for the boom to be mechanically stable to 5 arc-so
A system was needed to measure the orientation of
t he vector sensors relative to the star cameras. This
system, the Attitude Transfer System (ATS), used
an optical technique involving mirrors attached to
the vector sensor to make the necessary measurement (see the article by Fountain el al. in this
The elements of the ATS and the two star
cameras had to be tied together mechanically in
some permanent and extremely stable fashion. The
structure to achieve this was the optical bench, a
built-up assembly of graphite fiber and epoxy resin
that provided a near-zero coefficient of thermal expansion. The bench was attached to the satellite at
five points, two of which were released by pyrotechnic devices after the satellite was in orbit. The
Fig. 5- The precession of the
Magsat orbit plane with time.
The Magsat orbit plane makes
an angle of gr with the
earth's equatorial plane. At
this inclination (and at the
altitude of Magsat), the equatorial bulge of the earth
causes the orbit plane to rotate above the polar axis at
1°/day, just the right amount
to turn the orbit plane toward
the sun as the earth proceeds
in its orbit about the sun. Unfortunately, the 23 tilt of the
earth polar axis adds to the
tilt of the orbit plane in June,
causing shadowing of the
southern portion of the orbit
by the earth. This shadowing
began in mid-April for Magsat.
The earth is always inclined 23 0 from the ecliptic.
Magsat rbit is inclined 7 from the North Pole towards the sun.
Johns Hopkins APL Technical Digest
three remaining support points did not apply stress
to the bench. Heaters and temperature sensors at
eight places stabilized the bench temperature at
At the end of the 6 meter extendable boom were
the vector magnetometer sensor and a scalar magnetometer sensor (see the articles by Acuna and
Farthing). The vector sensor consisted of three
small toroidal cores of highly permeable magnetic
material with platinum wire windings used to sense
the components of the field. They were mounted
on a very stable ceramic block, and the temperature was controlled at 25°C. The scalar
magnetometer measured the field magnitude very
accurately, but not its direction. It used Zeeman
splitting of energy levels in cesium- l33 gas as a
technique for measuring the field. The scalar data
provided redundancy and an independent check on
the calibration of the vector magnetometer.
Magsat was the latest and most complex of the
satellites built by APL. The command system featured its own dual computers, which permitted
storage of 164 commands, to be implemented at
desired times (see the article by Lew et at.). This
was very helpful because the low altitude of Magsat
meant that a ground station had only 9 to 10
minutes in which to send commands, receive the
data played back by the tape recorders, and make
decisions about managing the satellite's health. The
command system was also designed to accept commands from another on-board system, viz., the attitude control system. The attitude control system
also used a small computer to manage the satellite
attitude. When it decided that commands were
needed, a request was sent to the command system,
which then implemented the command.
Fabrication and test of components and
subassemblies commenced during the winter of
1977-78 and were completed in 1979. The instrument module was assembled in December 1978 and
exposed to a thermal balance test in vacuum. The
base module was assembled in January and February 1979, and a critical test of the attitude control
system was performed to verify various design and
performance parameters. Development difficulties
delayed availability of the magnetometer boom
assembly until May 1979. The base module and instrument module were assembled without the boom
and taken to GSFC for the star camera and ATS
The alignment and calibration of all the optical
elements mounted on the optical bench was an especially difficult task. It was done with the fully assembled satellite mounted inside an aluminum cage,
using the optical test laboratory at GSFC. Since the
calibration was done in the gravity field of the
earth (i.e., 1 g), the weight of the star camera and
ATS components would distort the optical bench.
Volume 1, N umber 3, 1980
But in ·o rbit, the satellite continuously experiences
zero g, these distortions would disappear, and our
ground calibrations would be invalidated. To solve
the problem, we made a second calibration with the
satellite upside down, thereby reversing the direction of the weight force (i.e., -I g) and producing
distortions equal and opposite to those of the initial calibration. We then presumed that the zero-g
calibration must be exactly midway between the
two results. This technique has been confirmed
with our flight results.
The spacecraft was returned to APL where the
two modules were separated so that the magnetometer boom assembly could be installed. A series of
boom extension tests was performed to verify ATS
performance and alignment and to calibrate the
boom deployment telemetry channels. In June
1979, the spacecraft was reassembled and, after a
preliminary weight and balance determination, was
returned to GSFC for initial magnetics tests and
radio frequency interference tests aimed at verifying that all subsystems could operate in the orbital
configuration without interfering with one another.
Upon its return to APL, there followed detailed
electrical performance tests, establishing the baseline for future reference.
During August 1979, the spacecraft was exposed
to launch phase vibration and shock excitation tests
followed by two weeks of combined thermal vacuum and thermal balance testing. In September the
spacecraft was once again taken to GSFC for final
weight, center-of-gravity location, and moment-ofinertia determinations; final magnetic tests; and
post-environmental verification of the optical alignment of the star cameras and ATS. Upon its return
to APL, a final vibration exposure (single axis) was
performed to ensure that all components were
secure. This was followed by a short electrical test.
The spacecraft, ground station, and supporting
equipment were trucked from APL to Vandenberg
Air Force Base, arriving on the morning of October 8, 1979. Intensive field operations followed, including electrical tests, assembly to the fourth stage
rocket, and final spin balance. The spacecraft
fourth stage rocket assembly was then mounted on
the main rocket assembly, the heat shield was installed, and all-systems tests were performed. On
October 27, 1979, a dress rehearsal was conducted,
leaving all in readiness for launch, planned for October 29 at dawn. The countdown began on the
evening of October 28 but had to be suspended just
prior to terminal countdown because of extremely
high winds at about 10,000 ft altitude. The launch
operation was resumed on the evening of October
29 and culminated in a successful launch at 6: 16
A.M. PST, October 30, 1979. All stages fired cor167
rectly and the spacecraft was injected into a 352 by
578 km sun-synchronous orbit.
Data were recorded until the satellite burned up
at low altitude on June 11, 1980. A large amount
of vector and scalar magnetometer data was collected, and scientific results are beginning to
become available. We experienced some operational
problems because of earth shadowing in the latter
portion of Magsat's life, primarily caused by an
unexpected ' loss of battery capacity that forced
some compromises in data collection. The sunshades of the star cameras showed light leaks,
which caused the loss of some data. On the whole,
however, the Magsat satellite has been very successful, and all mission objectives should be accomplished when the data are fully processed.
The articles that follow describe the developments that led to the Magsat program, and the mission objectives, and summarize early flight events.
Subsequently, details of the spacecraft components
are discussed. The concluding articles describe the
scientific results and on-going studies.
IS. Chapman and J. Bartels, Geomagnetism, Oxford Press , p . 888
(1940) .
2W. Gilbert , On the Magnet; The Collector 's Series in Science (D . J.
Price , ed.) Basic Book s, Inc., New York (1958).
31bid, pp . v-xi .
4A . J . Zmuda (ed.), World Magnetic Survey, 195 7-1969, International
Association o f Geomagnetism and Aeronomy Bulletin No . 28, Paris
5F . D. Stacey, Physics of the Earth, John Wiley and Sons, New York
(1969) .
6M . J . A itken and G . H . Weaver , "Recent Archeomagnetic Results in
England ," J. Geomag. Geoelect. 17, p . 391 (1965) .
7T. Nagata , " Main Characteristics of Recent Geomagnetic Secular
Variati o n," J. Geomag. Geoelect. 17, p . 263 (1965).
BSee reviews of W . M . Elsa sser , " Hydromagnetic Dynamo Theory ,"
Revs. M od . Phys. 28 , p. 135 (1956) ; D. R. Inglis, "Theories of the
Earth 's Magnetism ," Revs. M od. Phys. 27, p . 212 (1955); and T .
R ikitake, Electromagnetism and the Earth 's Interior, Elsevier , Amsterdam (1966) .
Aerotrim Boom - A motorized extendable boom consisting of a pair of
silver-plated beryllium-copper tapes,
0.002 inch thick, rolled on a pair of
spools. When extended the tapes formed
a tube 0.5 inch in diameter up to 12
meters long. The air drag on the boom
was used to balance the aerodynamic
torques in yaw.
Attitude Control System The
system that controlled the satellite attitude; in Magsat it held the satellite
properly oriented wi th respect to the
earth and the orbit plane . It consisted
primarily of a momentum wheel with an
integral infrared earth horizon scanner,
magnetic torque coils, gyro system, and
associated electronics.
Attitude Transfer System (A TS) - An
electronic and optical system for measuring the orientation of the vector
magnetometer sensor relative to the star
cameras. Two optical heads of the ATS
were mounted on the optical bench near
the star cameras . One of the heads
transmitted a beam of light to a plane
mirror on the back of the vector magnetometer. The beam was reflected back
into the same head where its angular
deviation was measured and two angles
of the plane mirror were determined .
The second head sent a beam of light to
a dihedral mirror also on the back of
the vector magnetometer. The light was
reflected to a dihedral mirror on the optical bench, and then via the first dihedral mirror back to the optical head.
The position of the reflected beam was
used to measure the twist angle of the
vector sensor.
Command System - The apparatus
aboard the satellite that accepted the
digital bit stream from the receiver portion of the transponders, decoded it to
recover the command words transmitted
from the ground, and routed the words
to the destinations designated by the address codes contained in each word. At
destination, the word was further decoded and the specific element of the satellite addressed was placed in the mode
designated by the word.
Data Formatter - The portion of the
telemetry system that took the various
science and housekeeping digital data
bits and arranged them in a predetermined sequence for modulation onto the
carrier frequency of the transmitter as
well as for recording by the tape recorders . The predetermined sequence
permitted decoding of the signals by
ground-based computers.
Despin/ Separation Timer - One of a
pair of devices mounted on the head cap
of the fourth-stage rocket motor. It was
intended to initiate despin followed by
spacecraft separation at predetermined
times following the completion of firing
of the fourth-stage rocket motor.
Horizon Scanner - The momentum
wheel had within its structure an optical
system capable of detecting radiation
Direction of f li ght
iv'w ",,)
from the earth in the infrared (IR) at 15
micrometers . The field-of-view was a
narrow beam rotated to form a 90° cone
as the wheel spun. When the beam intersected the earth, the IR radiation was
detected; an electronic system derived
the pitch and roll angles of the satellite
from this information.
Magnetic Coils - Magsat had X-, Y-,
and Z-axis coils for torquing by interaction with the earth's magnetic field. A
coil consisted of many turns of aluminum wire mounted on the outer skin of
the satellite. When energized with a
steady electric current, the coils experienced torques from the earth's magnetic field that were used for attitude
Magnetometer Boom - A collapsible
structural element composed of seven
pairs of links in a scissors or "lazytongs" -type arrangement intended to
move the sensor platform from its
caged, launch-phase position to a position 6 meters away from the instrument
Magnetometers - The scientific in-
Fig. A-The orientation of Magsat in
orbit, as determined by the attitude
determination system.
To the earth
-toll axis)
Johns Hopkins APL Technical Digest
Fig. B-The configuration of Magsat.
Tape recorder
ATS electronics
Temperature control electronics
Solar aspect sensor electronics
B-axis (Z) magnetic coil
Aerotrim boom
I R horizon scanner
and momentum wheel
Base module
Attitude control system
Command system
Data formatter
Nutation damper
Power supply
Solar cell array
ATS roll
__irror ~=====;==~~~
Solar aspect sensor
Vector magnetometer
struments of Magsat consisted of a
three-axis vector magnetometer and a
scalar magnetometer for measuring the
magnetic field of the earth_ The vector
magnetometer sensor had three small
magnetic elements, each sensitive to one
component of the earth's field_ The
scalar magnetometer measured only the
magnitude of the field by optical pumping of atomic excitation states in cesium133 gas.
damped_ In Magsat, damping was accomplished in two ways : by a pendulous
mechanical damper that used magnetic
eddy currents for damping, and by the
closed-loop attitude control that
modulated the momentum wheel speed
to damp nutation_
Momentum Wheel - Magsat had an
internal tungsten wheel that spun at
about 1500 rpm_ This rotation provided
angular momentum that gave the satellite a form of gyroscopic attitude stability. This was a key feature of the attitude control system_
Optical Bench - A structural platform constructed of a graphite fiberepoxy-laminate honeycomb that was designed to provide a very stable surface
for mounting the star cameras and ATS
components . The properties of the material were used to ensure that the exact
angular relationship was maintained between the star cameras and A TS components irrespective of instrument-module
temperature fluctuations.
Nutation Damper - When a disturbance torque is applied to a gyro-stabilized satellite such as Magsat, the attitude motion includes nodding or wobbling. After the torque is removed, this
nodding {"nutation"} persists unless
Oscillator An ultrastable quartz
crystal oscillator producing a 5 MHz
output used as the source for the 162
and 324 MHz Doppler signals_ The 5MHz signal was also used to synchronize
the various DC-DC converters aboard the
Volume 1, Number 3,1980
spacecraft to avoid developing spurious
beat frequencies that could be a source
of interference to the various electronic
devices_ The stability of the oscillator
was achieved by placing the crystal inside a double-oven arrangement, providing a high degree of thermal isolation
from the fluctuations experienced by the
base module, and by using a cut quartz
crystal selected so that its turnover
temperature and the oven temperature
were precisely matched_ This permitted
operation with virtually no temperature
effect on the oscillation frequency.
Power Supply The system consisted of the following elements: solar
cell arrays to generate electricity; a battery mounted in the base module to
store the electrical energy for use during
any shadowed portions of the orbits and
to meet peak power demands; battery
voltage limiter devices to control battery
charging; and DC-DC converter regulators
to condition power to the voltages needed by each user_
Solar Aspect Sensors - Several types
were included in Magsat. Of special interest was the "precision" solar aspect
sensor, mounted near the vector magnetometer sensor, which measured the
angles to the sun with an accuracy of 5
to 10 arc-seconds.
Star Cameras - Two star cameras
were mounted rigidly on the optical
bench . Each camera had a 4-inch-diameter lens that focused the stars on the
front end of an "image-dissector" electronic tube. Inside the tube, in the
vacuum, was a very sensitive surface
that emitted electrons wherever starlight
fell upon it. These electrons were
directed by magnetic coils to pass
through a small hole into an electron
multiplier where a cascade of electrons
was generated, finally accumulating
enough effect to be a measurable electric
current. With magnetic coils driven in a
predetermined manner, the surface of
the tube was searched for sources of
electrons (i.e., starlight). When a source
was found, the magnetic coils "locked"
onto it for a few seconds and the position was recorded.
Tape Recorder - A device used to
store telemetry data until the satellite
was over or near a ground station. The
signals were recorded magnetically on
iron-oxide-coated Mylar tape running
between a pair of coaxially mounted
reels. Two tape recorders were mounted
on the deck between the base module
and instrument module.
Telemetry - The process by which
the scientific (magnetometer) data and
information concerning the satellite attitude, load currents, bus voltages, temperatures, and other "housekeeping"
data were transmitted to the NASA
STON ground stations.
Transponder A combined radio
receiver and transmitter operating at Sband, used for receiving command signals transmitted from the NASA STO
ground stations and for transmitting the
telemetry signals from Magsat to the
same ground stations. This NASA Standard Near-Earth Transponder could also
be used as a range/range rate transponder for satellite tracking and orbit
determination. Magsat, however, used
the much more precise Doppler beacons
in conjunction with the OMA tracking
Vehicle Adapter The conicallyshaped transition section bolted to the
fourth-stage rocket to which the spacecraft was clamped. The two halves of
the clamp were fastened together at each
end by bolts passing through pyrotechnically operated cutters. Separation of the
spacecraft from the launch vehicle was
achieved by actuating the bolt cutters by
a stimulus from the spacecraft battery
initiated by the despin / separation
timers. When the bolts were cut, the two
clamp halves moved apart, allowing
small springs to force the spacecraft
away from the adapter/ fourth-stage
Johns Hopkins A PL Technical Digest
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