The Mars Ion and Neutral Particle Analyzer (MINPA) is one of the three scientific instruments onboard the Tianwen-1 orbiter to investigate the Martian space environment. During Tianwen-1’s transfer orbit to Mars, the MINPA was switched on to measure the solar wind ions. Here, we present the first results of the MINPA observations in the solar wind. During cruise, nearly half of the MINPA ion field-of-view (FOV) was blocked by the lander capsule; thus only the solar-wind ions with azimuthal speeds pointing towards the unblocked FOV sectors could be detected. We perform a detailed comparison of the MINPA’s solar wind observations with data from Earth-based missions when MINPA reached its count-rate peak, finding a general consistency of the ion moments between them. The blocking effect due to the lander is evaluated quantitatively under varying solar-wind velocity conditions. Despite the blocking effect, the MINPA’s solar wind measurements during the transfer orbit suggest a good performance.
The main objective of the Mars Ion and Neutral Particle Analyzer (MINPA) aboard the Chinese Mars Exploration Mission (Tianwen-1) is to study the solar wind–Mars interaction by measuring the ions and energetic neutral atoms (ENAs) near Mars. The MINPA integrates ion and ENA measurements into one sensor head, sharing the same electronics box. The MINPA utilizes a standard toroidal top-hat electrostatic analyzer (ESA) followed by a time of flight (TOF) unit to provide measurement of ions with energies from 2.8 eV to 25.9 keV and ENAs from 50 eV to 3 keV with a base time resolution of 4 seconds. Highly polished silicon single crystal substrates with an Al2O3 film coating are used to ionize the ENAs into positive ions. These ions can then be analyzed by the ESA and TOF, to determine the energy and masses of the ENAs. The MINPA provides a 360°×90° field of view (FOV) with 22.5°×5.4° angular resolution for ion measurement, and a 360°×9.7° FOV with 22.5°×9.7° angular resolution for ENA measurement. The TOF unit combines a –15 kV acceleration high voltage with ultra-thin carbon foils to resolve H+, He2+, He+, O+, O2+ and CO2+ for ion measurement and to resolve H and O (≥ 16 amu group) for ENA measurement. Here we present the design principle and describe our ground calibration of the MINPA.
We used historical data to trace trapped protons observed by the Fengyun-1C (FY-1C) satellite at low Earth orbits (~800 km) and chose data at 5–10 MeV, 10–40 MeV, 40–100 MeV, and ~100–300 MeV from 25 March to 18 April 2000 to analyze the proton variations. Only one isolated strong storm was associated with a solar proton event during this period, and there was no influence from previous proton variations. Complex dynamic phenomena of proton trapping and loss were affected by this disturbance differently depending on the energy and L location. The flux of 5–10 MeV protons increased and created new trapping with a maximum at L ~2.0, and the peak flux was significantly higher than that at the center of the South Atlantic Anomaly. However, at higher L, the flux showed obvious loss, with retreat of the outer boundary from L ~2.7 to L ~2.5. The increase in the 10–40 MeV proton flux was similar to that of the 5–10 MeV flux; however, the peak flux intensity was lower than that at the center of the South Atlantic Anomaly. The loss of the 10–40 MeV proton flux was closer to the Earth side, and the outer boundary was reduced from L ~2.3 to L ~2.25. For the higher energy protons of 40–100 MeV and 100–300 MeV, no new trapping was found. Loss of the 40–100 MeV protons was observed, and the outer boundary shifted from L ~2.0 to L ~1.9. Loss was not obvious for the 100–400 MeV protons, which were distributed within L < 1.8. New proton trapping was more likely to be created at lower energy in the region of solar proton injection by the strong magnetic storm, whereas loss occurred in a wide energy range and reduced the outer boundary on the Earth side. Similar dynamic changes were observed by the NOAA-15 satellite in the same period, but the FY-1C satellite observed more complex changes in lower energy protons. These results revealed that the dynamic behavior of protons with different L-shells was due to differences in the pitch angle. Possible mechanisms related to new trapping and loss are also discussed. These mechanisms are very important for understanding the behavior of the proton belt in the coming solar cycle.