Articles | Volume 2, issue 2
Research article
13 Sep 2013
Research article |  | 13 Sep 2013

A radiation hardened digital fluxgate magnetometer for space applications

D. M. Miles, J. R. Bennest, I. R. Mann, and D. K. Millling

Abstract. Space-based measurements of Earth's magnetic field are required to understand the plasma processes responsible for energising particles in the Van Allen radiation belts and influencing space weather. This paper describes a prototype fluxgate magnetometer instrument developed for the proposed Canadian Space Agency's (CSA) Outer Radiation Belt Injection, Transport, Acceleration and Loss Satellite (ORBITALS) mission and which has applications in other space and suborbital applications. The magnetometer is designed to survive and operate in the harsh environment of Earth's radiation belts and measure low-frequency magnetic waves, the magnetic signatures of current systems, and the static background magnetic field. The new instrument offers improved science data compared to its predecessors through two key design changes: direct digitisation of the sensor and digital feedback from two cascaded pulse-width modulators combined with analog temperature compensation. These provide an increase in measurement bandwidth up to 450 Hz with the potential to extend to at least 1500 Hz. The instrument can resolve 8 pT on a 65 000 nT field with a magnetic noise of less than 10 pT/√Hz at 1 Hz. This performance is comparable with other recent digital fluxgates for space applications, most of which use some form of sigma-delta (ΣΔ) modulation for feedback and omit analog temperature compensation. The prototype instrument was successfully tested and calibrated at the Natural Resources Canada Geomagnetics Laboratory.