My lecture slides on spacecraft magnetometers for use in attitude sensing only mention the use in the context of Earth orbits, but leave it open to interpretation if they can be used for attitude sensing in orbits of other planets.

Can a spacecraft magnetometer be used in non-terrestrial orbits, or other planets lack the necessary magnetic field?


For attitude determination using magnetic field you need:

  1. A measurable field
  2. A good model for the field

On Earth, the usual model is called IGRF. You need the model to correlate the measured field with the estimated field at a certain position in orbit.

Here is a list of magnetic field strengths on planets in the solar system.

  • $\begingroup$ Well that link you provide of course correctly cites no planetary magnetic field for Venus, but I'm pretty sure that the induced ionospheric magnetosphere can be measured precisely enough (e.g. Venus Express must do that if it detected ionospheric holes several times). E.g. its ionosheet location would be fairly constant and opposite the Sun, it's rather thin so precisely placed, and would have distinct EM signature to its surroundings. I'm not aware of this being actually put to any use for attitude sensing tho, but why not? $\endgroup$ – TildalWave Sep 22 '14 at 18:27
  • $\begingroup$ And Mars does have remnant magnetic field, more sensitive magnetometers would be able to detect it. $\endgroup$ – TildalWave Sep 22 '14 at 18:30

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