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Clouds of Spacecraft Debris Liberated by Hypervelocity Dust Impacts on Parker Solar Probe

AuthorMalaspina, David; Stenborg, Guillermo; Mehoke, Doug; Al-Ghazwi, Adel; Shen, Mitchell; Hsu, Hsiang-Wen; Iyer, Kaushik; Bale, Stuart; de Wit, Thierry;
KeywordsParker Data Used; 1845; 821; 1549; 1542; 1544
AbstractHypervelocity impacts on spacecraft surfaces produce a wide range of effects including transient plasma clouds, surface material ablation, and for some impacts, the liberation of spacecraft material as debris clouds. This study examines debris-producing impacts on the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft as it traverses the densest part of the zodiacal cloud: the inner heliosphere. Hypervelocity impacts by interplanetary dust grains on the spacecraft that produce debris clouds are identified and examined. Impact-generated plasma and debris strongly perturb the near-spacecraft environment, producing distinct signals on electric, magnetic, and imaging sensors, as well as anomolous behavior of the star tracker cameras used for attitude determination. From these data, the spatial distribution, mass, and velocity of impactors that produce debris clouds are estimated. Debris-cloud expansion velocity and debris fragment sizes are constrained by the observational data, and long- duration electric potential perturbations caused by debris clouds are reported, along with a hypothesis for their creation. Impact-generated plasma-cloud expansion velocities, as well as pickup acceleration by the solar wind and driven plasma waves are also measured. Together, these observations produce a comprehensive picture of near-spacecraft environmental perturbations in the aftermath of a hypervelocity impact.
Year of Publication2022
Number of Pages27
Date Publishedjan