Articles | Volume 29, issue 5
19 May 2011
 | 19 May 2011

Modelling of spacecraft spin period during eclipse

E. Georgescu, F. Plaschke, U. Auster, K.-H. Fornaçon, and H. U. Frey

Abstract. The majority of scientific satellites investigating the Earth magnetosphere are spin stabilized. The attitude information comes usually from a sun sensor and is missing in the umbra; hence, the accurate experimental determination of vector quantities is not possible during eclipses. The spin period of the spacecraft is generally not constant during these times because the moment of inertia changes due to heat dissipation. The temperature dependence of the moment of inertia for each spacecraft has a specific signature determined by its design and distribution of mass. We developed an "eclipse-spin" model for the spacecraft spin period behaviour using magnetic field vector measurements close to the Earth, where the magnetic field is dominated by the dipole field, and in the magnetospheric lobes, where the magnetic field direction is mostly constant. The modelled spin periods give us extraordinarily good results with accumulated phase deviations over one hour of less than 10 degrees. Using the eclipse spin model satellite experiments depending on correct spin phase information can deliver science data even during eclipses. Two applications for THEMIS B, one in the lobe and the other in the lunar wake, are presented.