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World class computing and information science research at Strathclyde...

The Strathprints institutional repository is a digital archive of University of Strathclyde's Open Access research outputs. Strathprints provides access to thousands of Open Access research papers by University of Strathclyde researchers, including by researchers from the Department of Computer & Information Sciences involved in mathematically structured programming, similarity and metric search, computer security, software systems, combinatronics and digital health.

The Department also includes the iSchool Research Group, which performs leading research into socio-technical phenomena and topics such as information retrieval and information seeking behaviour.

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GeoSail: exploring the geomagnetic tail using a small solar sail

McInnes, C.R. and Macdonald, M. and Angelopoulos, V. and Alexander, D. (2001) GeoSail: exploring the geomagnetic tail using a small solar sail. Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, 38 (4). pp. 622-629. ISSN 0022-4650

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Abstract

Conventional geomagnetic tail missions require a spacecraft to be injected into a long elliptical orbit to explore the spatial structure of the geomagnetic tail. However, because the elliptical orbit is inertially fixed and the geomagnetic tail is directed along the sun-Earth line, the apse line of the elliptical orbit is precisely aligned with the geomagnetic tail only once every year. To artificially precess the apse line of the elliptical orbit in a sun-synchronous manner, which would keep the spacecraft in the geomagnetic tail during the entire year, would require continuous low-thrust propulsion or periodic impulses from a high-thrust propulsion system. Both of these options require reaction mass that will ultimately limit the mission lifetime. It is demonstrated that sun-synchronous apse-line precession can be achieved using only a small, low-cost solar sail. Because solar sails do not require reaction mass, a geomagnetic tail mission can be configured that provides a continuous science return by permanently stationing a science payload within the geomagnetic tail.