2. Introduction to the Physics of Charging and Discharging

  1. Henry B. Garrett and
  2. Albert C. Whittlesey

Published Online: 4 MAY 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781118241400.ch2

Guide to Mitigating Spacecraft Charging Effects

Guide to Mitigating Spacecraft Charging Effects

How to Cite

Garrett, H. B. and Whittlesey, A. C. (2012) Introduction to the Physics of Charging and Discharging, in Guide to Mitigating Spacecraft Charging Effects, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ, USA. doi: 10.1002/9781118241400.ch2

Author Information

  1. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 4 MAY 2012
  2. Published Print: 4 MAY 2012

Book Series:

  1. JPL Space Science and Technology Series

Book Series Editors:

  1. Joseph H. Yuen

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781118186459

Online ISBN: 9781118241400



  • analytical modeling techniques;
  • coupling models;
  • internal electrostatic discharge (IESD);
  • plasma emitters;
  • space charging


The fundamental physical concepts that account for space charging are described in this chapter. Spacecraft charging occurs when charged particles from the surrounding plasma and energetic particle environment stop on the spacecraft: either on the surface, on interior parts, in dielectrics, or in conductors. Charging can also occur when photoemission occurs; that is, solar photons cause surfaces to emit photoelectrons. Events after that determine whether or not the charging causes problems. To assess the magnitude of the internal electrostatic discharge (IESD) concern for a given orbit, it is necessary to know the electron charging environment along that orbit. Analytical modeling techniques should be used to predict surface charging effects. Approaches to predicting spacecraft surface voltages resulting from encounters with plasma environments or high-energy particle events are discussed. The chapter concludes with a discussion on the discharge characteristics of charged spacecraft surfaces, and coupling models.

Controlled Vocabulary Terms

electrostatic discharge; spacecraft charging; surface charging