Specification of the near-Earth space environment with SHIELDS
Predicting variations in the near-Earth space environment that can lead to spacecraft damage and failure is one example of “space weather” and a big space physics challenge. A project recently funded through the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Directed Research and Development (LDRD) program aims at developing a new capability to understand, model, and predict Space Hazards Induced near Earth by Large Dynamic Storms, the SHIELDS framework. The project goals are to understand the dynamics of the surface charging environment (SCE), the hot (keV) electrons representing the source and seed populations for the radiation belts, on both macro- and micro-scale. Important physics questions related to particle injection and acceleration associated with magnetospheric storms and substorms, as well as plasma waves, are investigated. These challenging problems are addressed using a team of world-class experts in the fields of space science and computational plasma physics, and state-of-the-art models and computational facilities. A full two-way coupling of physics-based models across multiple scales, including a global MHD (BATS-R-US) embedding a particle-in-cell (iPIC3D) and an inner magnetosphere (RAM-SCB) codes, is achieved. New data assimilation techniques employing in situ satellite data are developed; these provide an order of magnitude improvement in the accuracy in the simulation of the SCE. SHIELDS also includes a post-processing tool designed to calculate the surface charging for specific spacecraft geometry using the Curvilinear Particle-In-Cell (CPIC) code that can be used for reanalysis of satellite failures or for satellite design.