Nuclear Electric Propulsion Space Environmental Studies
- Conference date: 9–13 January 1994
- Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico (USA)
High energy photons emitted from space fission power supplies should not directly interfere with astronomical satellites in an unacceptable way. However, positrons emitted from space fission power and propulsion systems could potentially lead to interference with sensitive astronomical satellites, such as the Gamma Ray Observatory (GRO). Positrons are created when a high energy photon is attenuated by pair production. If this pair production occurs near the surface of a material (in the outer 2 g/cm2) the positron may escape. Positrons emitted from the reactor can then be transported by the Earth's magnetic field down to orbits occupied by astronomical satellites. If the satellite and space fission power supply are properly aligned, the positron could interact with the satellite to form two 0.511 MeV photons (via positron/electron annihilation). The proximity of the photon production to detectors and the potential for bursts could lead to interference. The potential for interference is amplified by the fact that 0.511 MeV photons are of particular interest to gamma ray astronomers. One of the more effected instruments on the GRO is the Burst and Transient Source Experiment (BATSE). Preliminary results predict that the rate of occurrence of positron events in which the count rate of BATSE will be increased by 3% or more above its background count rate is one or less per day for TOPAZ II orbital altitudes of 1600, 2200, and 4000 km. The rate of occurrence for a TOPAZ II altitude of 5250 km is near zero.
- Electron positron interactions
- Environmental studies
- Geomagnetism and paleomagnetism
- Magnetic fields
- Photon production
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