Laboratory Simulation of Impacts upon Aluminum Foils of the Stardust Spacecraft : Calibration of Dust Particle Size from Comet Wild 2.
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- Metallic aluminium alloy foils exposed on the forward, comet-facing surface of the aerogel tray on the Stardust spacecraft are likely to have been impacted by the same cometary particle population as the dedicated impact sensors and the aerogel collector. The ability of soft aluminium alloy to record hypervelocity impacts as bowl-shaped craters offers an opportunistic substrate for recognition of impacts by particles of a wide potential size range. In contrast to impact surveys conducted on samples from low Earth orbit, the simple encounter geometry for Stardust and Wild 2, with a known and constant spacecraft-particle relative velocity and effective surface-perpendicular impact trajectories, permits closely comparable simulation in laboratory experiments. For a detailed calibration programme we have selected a suite of spherical glass projectiles of uniform density and hardness characteristics, with well-documented particle size range from 10 microns to nearly 100 microns. Light gas gun buckshot firings of these particles at approximately 6km s)exp -1) onto samples of the same foil as employed on Stardust have yielded large numbers of craters. Scanning electron microscopy of both projectiles and impact features has allowed construction of a calibration plot, showing a linear relationship between impacting particle size and impact crater diameter. The close match between our experimental conditions and the Stardust mission encounter parameters should provide another opportunity to measure particle size distributions and fluxes close to the nucleus of Wild 2, independent of the active impact detector instruments aboard the Stardust spacecraft.
- NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS) Collection.
- Document ID: 20080026200.
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