Pulsed high voltage insulator flashover in a simulated low earth orbit environment



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An experimental facility has been designed and constructed to study the effects of the low earth orbit (LEO) environment on high voltage insulators. The facility incorporates an LEO simulation chamber equipped with a vacuum system, argon plasma source, and a pulsed UV source. A 500 kV coaxial Marx generator is used to provide the test pulses required for surface flashover studies of cylindrical and conical insulator samples with varying angles between the insulator surface and the applied electric field. This thesis contains a brief introduction of the problems facing designers of high voltage equipment to be used in the LEO environment, followed by a description of the present state of understanding of surface flashover of insulators. The LEO environment is then be described from a flashover point of view. The design and operation of the various components involved in this experimental facility are documented. The data which are presented suggest that the effect of the plasma component of the LEO environment acts to decrease slightly the flashover potential of cylindrical Lexan insulators, with high voltage impulses in the J.IS regime. This decrease has been observed to be as much as 15% of the flashover potential in the absence of plasma.



Space vehicles -- Electrostatic charging -- Simulation methods, Space plasmas -- Simulation methods, Space vehicles -- Electric equipment -- Design and construction