Space Plasma Mass Spectroscopy Below 60 Kev

  1. J. H. Waite Jr.,
  2. J. L. Burch and
  3. R. L. Moore
  1. D. T. Young

Published Online: 18 MAR 2013

DOI: 10.1029/GM054p0143

Solar System Plasma Physics

Solar System Plasma Physics

How to Cite

Young, D. T. (1989) Space Plasma Mass Spectroscopy Below 60 Kev, in Solar System Plasma Physics (eds J. H. Waite, J. L. Burch and R. L. Moore), American Geophysical Union, Washington, D. C.. doi: 10.1029/GM054p0143

Author Information

  1. Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, TX 78284

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 18 MAR 2013
  2. Published Print: 1 JAN 1989

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780875900742

Online ISBN: 9781118664315



  • Space plasmas;
  • Sun;
  • Magnetosphere;
  • Astrophysics


The next generation of missions in solar system plasma physics requires much more detailed and quantitative measurements than have been possible in the past. It has been found that magnetospheric plasmas, long considered to be primarily hydrogenic, contain large admixtures of “heavy” ions that are critical to many magnetospheric processes and hence must be included in plans for future measurements. Complexity of composition is only one attribute of space plasmas: they also exhibit diverse velocity distributions requiring 4π sr coverage, as well as strong spatial and temporal variations requiring high time resolution. Finally, the upper energy limit of these plasmas is now considered to be in the range of 60 keV (a typical limit for electrostatic analysis) to 100 keV (the limit set by ESA/Cluster mission requirement), which demands novel approaches to mass discrimination techniques. All of these factors suggest that missions currently under consideration by the space plasma community will require instruments far in advance of those used previously. This paper reviews the state of plasma mass spectroscopy, and offers one way to quantify the necessary advancements by introducing a “quality-factor” for plasma instrumentation. We demonstrate that the science objectives of the Cluster and Polar spacecraft of the International Solar Terrestrial Program require orders of magnitude improvement in performance compared to earlier generations of ion mass spectrometers. The needed improvements require new instrument designs that will place added demands on spacecraft resources. Upon examining the resources that are available to such instruments, we find little or no improvement over the 20-year period covered by this review.