Date of Award

Spring 4-28-2022

Access Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Engineering Physics


Physical Sciences

Committee Chair

Aroh Barjatya

First Committee Member

Robert Clayton

Second Committee Member

Shantanab Debchoudhury


Earth’s ionosphere is a dynamic environment that has yet to be fully understood. Interactions of high-energy particles from space with atmospheric plasma and the Earth’s natural magnetic field create many interesting interactions, many of which have direct impacts on the planet and human life. Understanding the dynamics of the upper atmosphere is a compelling endeavor, with much of the research being conducted through high-altitude sounding rockets. These rockets allow for in-situ measurements of the physical parameters of the upper atmosphere which in turn helps in the answering of important questions in space science. In order to quantify the force a charged particle in space will experience, a key metric to measure is the electric field. One instrument with a long heritage in measuring E-fields is the Electric Field Probe (EFP), which has flown since the 1960s. The instrument involves flying 2 electrically isolated conductors at a known distance from each other which are free from bias voltages and bias currents to allow them to reach a floating potential within the plasma. The E-field can be derived from the measurement of the voltage difference between these 2 conductors. The voltage of each conductor can also be referenced to spacecraft chassis to form a Floating Potential Probe (FPP), which provides insight to the spacecraft charging behavior: a helpful metric for other instruments on the sounding rocket. This thesis focuses on the process of creating an EFP/ FPP instrument for use on sounding rocket missions. The instrument design is based on legacy designs and past mission data, but modernized using contemporary parts for a novel design. Using Multisim and Ultiboard softwares (which use industry standard SPICE circuit modeling) the board is designed and constructed. After construction, the board undergoes rigorous testing to characterize and validate its performance: including testing in an artificial plasma-vacuum environment. After the board is validated, it is calibrated across voltage inputs and temperature to increase instrument precision in flight.