Electrostatic voltmeter to validate ESD protection on orbiting satellite

June 11, 2012 // By Jean-Pierre Joosting
TREK a designer and manufacturer of high-voltage amplifiers and electrostatic voltmeters, has one of its products onboard a satellite recently launched in Japan.

TREK JAPAN KK, an affiliate of TREK, Inc., has been working with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Kyushu Institute of Technology (KIT) to find ways to protect orbiting satellites from damage.

A major contributor to satellite damage is electrostatic discharge (ESD), which many of us experience when touching a light switch after shuffling our feet across a synthetic carpet. This kind of discharge occurs between conducting (metal) and non-conducting (non-metal) materials on a satellite.

Professor Cho at KIT has developed an electron-emitting film (ELF) to help mitigate electric charging (and therefore electrostatic discharge) on satellites. Trek's product, a special electrostatic voltmeter designed for this space project, will measure the surface voltage on the satellite to validate and confirm that the ELF is effective in reducing discharge events.

If the results from this program are encouraging, additional opportunities for research, collaboration and commercial application will be explored.

Satellite manufacturers are very interested in ways to reduce damage to their satellites given the significant expense involved in manufacturing, launching and maintaining satellites.