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Precession Damping of Solar Probes by Reradiative Forces

Philip T. Choong, Edward A. Mason

Nuclear Technology

Volume 19 / Number 3 / September 1973 / Pages 165-173


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Thermal analysis of the temperature distribution around a spinning shell under solar radiation indicated that the resultant asymmetric temperature distribution is capable of generating sufficient thermal reradiative force to stabilize small solar probes. The steady-state normal component of this force at optimum spin is barely adequate to damp out the precession of a small solar probe. This study showed that, by coating the shell surface with a radioisotopic heat source, the useful thermal reradiation force is only increased moderately. However, the optimum spin can be shifted upward by an order of magnitude to a spin range where the attitude of the spacecraft is relatively insensitive to small disturbances. By coating the shell surface with the subliming material, the sublimation force acting on the shell is increased enormously. The numerical techniques developed to solve the inherently two-dimensional transient heat flow equation having nonlinear boundary conditions appeared to be numerically stable.

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