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NRL Launches Plasma Sensor Experiment on SpaceX’s Dragon Spacecraft

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The Naval Research Laboratory has deployed a plasma sensor platform aboard SpaceX‘s Dragon spacecraft as part of the company’s 17th cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station. The Space PlasmA Diagnostic suitE is built to track space weather conditions around ISS and detect potential hazardous charging levels for the station, the U.S. Navy said Monday.

In addition, SPADE will highlight the instrument’s response to any changes in the plasma sheath and excite local plasma through the use of an active antenna. A passive antenna will observe the excitation process.

“This opens many new possibilities for measurements in industrial processed plasmas and in atmospheric pressure discharge experiments,” said Erik Tejero, plasma physicist at NRL’s plasma physics division.