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Electrical signatures of hypervelocity impact plasma with applications in in-situ particle detection

: Rudolph, Martin; Schimmerohn, Martin; Osterholz, Jens; Schäfer, Frank


Acta astronautica 101 (2014), S.157-164
ISSN: 0094-5765
International Astronautical Congress (IAC) <64, 2013, Beijing>
Zeitschriftenaufsatz, Konferenzbeitrag
Fraunhofer EMI ()

Hypervelocity impacts of micrometeoroid and space debris particles can produce a highly transient plasma cloud that shows a spectrum of distinct electrical phenomena ranging from charge production to electrostatic field and electromagnetic wave generation. The coupling of these effects to electrical probes can be used as a means of in-situ debris detection to monitor the polluted orbits around the Earth. In the past, some detectors were built mainly for the detection of natural dust populations in space, such as a long heritage of charge collection detectors. In addition, several radio astronomy and ambient plasma instruments that were not specifically dedicated to particle detection revealed impact-induced anomalies during interplanetary missions. Most of them were explained by the interaction of electrically sensitive probes with free charges produced upon impact. For the application in low Earth orbits, one needs to take into account, that the man-made debris population differs from natural populations in many regards, as does the plasma environment between interplanetary space and in orbits close to Earth. The paper at hand gives a summary of detectors with flight heritage and devises a first concept for in situ space debris detectors in low Earth orbit by exploiting past experience with dust detectors in deep space.