Space Science Reviews

, Volume 70, Issue 3–4, pp 465–482 | Cite as

Magnetic field experiment on the Freja satellite

  • Freja Magnetic Field Experiment Team


Freja is a Swedish scientific satellite mission to study fine scale auroral processes. Launch was October 6, 1992, piggyback on a Chinese Long March 2C, to the present 600×1750 km, 63° inclination orbit. The JHU/APL provided the Magnetic Field Experiment (MFE), which includes a custom APL-designed Forth, language microprocessor. This approach has led to a truly generic and flexible design with adaptability to differing mission requirements and has resulted in the transfer of significant ground analysis to on-board processing. Special attention has been paid to the analog electronic and digital processing design in an effort to lower system noise levels, verified by inflight data showing unprecedented system noise levels for near-Earth magnetic field measurements, approaching the fluxgate sensor levels. The full dynamic range measurements are of the 3-axis Earth's magnetic field taken at 128 vector samples s−1 and digitized to 16 bit, resolution, primarily used to evaluate currents and the main magnetic field of the Earth. Additional 3-axis ‘AC’ channels are bandpass filtered from 1.5 to 128 Hz to remove the main field spin signal, the range is±650 nT. These vector measurements cover Pc waves to ion gyrofrequency magnetic wave signals up to the oxygen gyrofrequency (∼40 Hz). A separate, seventh channel samples the spin axis sensor with a bandpass filter of 1.5 to 256 Hz, the signal of which is fed to a software FFT. This on-board FFT processing covers the local helium gyrofrequencies (∼160 Hz) and is plotted in the Freja Summary Plots (FSPs) along with disturbance fields. First data were received in the U.S. October 16 from Kiruna, Sweden via the Internet and SPAN e-mail networks, and were from an orbit a few hours earlier over Greenland and Sweden. Data files and data products, e.g., FSPs generated at the Kiruna ground station, are communicated in a similar manner through an automatic mail distribution system in Stockholm to PIs and various users. Distributed management of spacecraft operations by the science team is also achieved by this advanced communications system.

An exciting new discovery of the field-aligned current systems is the high frequency wave power or structure associated with the various large-scale currents. The spin axis ‘AC’ data and its standard deviation is a measure of this high-frequency component of the Birkeland current regions. The exact response of these channels and filters as well as the physics behind these wave and/or fine-scale current structures accompanying the large-scale currents is being pursued; nevertheless, the association is clear and the results are used for the MFE Birkeland current monitor calculated in the MFE microprocessor. This monitor then sets a trigger when it is greater than a commandable, preset threshold. This ‘event’ flag can be read by the system unit and used to remotely command all instruments into burst mode data taking and local memory storage. In addition,Freja is equipped with a 400 MHz ‘Low Speed Link’ transmitter which transmits spacecraft hcusekeeping that can be received with a low cost, portable receiver. These housekeeping data include the MFE auroral zone current detector; this space weather information indicates the location and strength of ionospheric current systems that directly impact communications, power systems, long distance telephone lines and near-Earth satellite operations. The JHU/APL MFE is a joint effort with NASA/GSFC and was co-sponsored by the Office of Naval Research and NASA/Headquarters in cooperation with the Swedish National Space Board and the Swedish Space Corporation.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Freja Magnetic Field Experiment Team
    • 1
  1. 1.Apptied Physics LaboratoryThe Johns Hopkins UniversityLaurelUSA

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