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High- Speed Impact


The Physics of High-speed Impact in Methods of Solar System's Exploration.

Tech Area / Field

  • SAT-AST/Astronomy/Space, Aircraft and Surface Transportation
  • PHY-NGD/Fluid Mechanics and Gas Dynamics/Physics

8 Project completed

Registration date

Completion date

Senior Project Manager
Zykov S A

Leading Institute
Russian Academy of Sciences / Space Research Institute, Russia, Moscow

Supporting institutes

  • VNIITF, Russia, Chelyabinsk reg., Snezhinsk


  • Southwest Research Institute / Division of Geophysical, Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences, USA, CO, Boulder\nMax-Planck-Institut für Astronomie, Germany, Katienburg-Lindau\nNASA / Ames Research Center, USA, CA, Moffett Field\nNASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratory, USA, CA, Pasadena\nLos-Alamos National Laboratory, USA, NM, Los-Alamos

Project summary

Relative speed of motion of Solar system objects equals by the order of magnitude to dozens kilometers per sec. Their collisions accompanied by the heating of matter to hundreds of thousands degrees, rising of pressure up to dozens of millions atmospheres and changing of density of colliding bodies by several times.

In the present project it is proposed to develop reliable physical and mathematical models, numerical methods and software for analysis and interpretation of results of two experimental methods of high-speed impact in the exploration of Solar system.

The first method is direct mass-spectrometric measurement of composition of cometary dust in PUMA experiments onboard VEGA-1 and VEGA-2 projects.

PUMA dust impact mass analyzer was used in both experiments. High-speed (79 km/sec) impact is accompanied with evaporation and ionization of dust and target. The ion component is analyzed by time-of-flight methods.

Measurements on PUMA-1 and PUMA-2 instruments gave more than five thousands mass spectra from impacts of separate dust particles. These experemental data will remain unique until carrying out of other experiments for measurements of chemical composition of cometary matter, which may be conducted not before than 15-20 years.

Qualitative interpretation of these spectrums brought results rather important for understanding of cosmogenic evolution of Solar system (for example, un-volative organic component was detected in dust particles). However, quantitative interpretation of obtained data was hindered because of some circumstances (absence of sufficient calibration and detailed theoretical analysis of the impact process).

Quantitative analysis of composition of cometary dust particles require modeling of complex of physical phenomena in dust impact mass analyzer, such as:

- dynamics of complex vortex flows typical for initial stage of high-speed impact;

- evaporation and ionization of dust matter and part of target;

- expansion of plasma cloud;

- kinetics of plasma ionization.

Calculated corrections to ion composition will allow to obtain quantitative data about composition of dust particles, which will allow to perform mineralogical and cosmogonies interpretation of results of PUMA experiment. Besides, results of calculations will be useful at carrying out of analogous instruments for measuring of interplanetary dust composition of inner regions of Solar system and interplanetary dust of outer environment of Solar system.

Second method is connected with remote observations of high-speed probes, interacting with atmosphere and surface of some outer objects of Solar system (Pluto and lo).

In projects for studies of Solar system objects with rarefied atmosphere (for example, outer planet Pluto or Io, satellite of Jupiter) it is supposed to use simple atmosphere probes of low mass with complex of scientific instruments for studies of structure and composition of atmosphere's upper layers, which operate until interaction of fast-moving object and atmosphere will do impossible carrying out of measurements and/or transmission of measurement's data on fly spacecraft-retranslator.

Nevertheless, examining the interaction of high-speed probe with atmosphere ami collision of probe with surface from flyby vehicle after stoppage of its on-board complex we can obtain unique information about characteristics of lower layers of atmosphere ami surface of objects to be studied. However, for interpretation of such observations it necessary to make the detailed theoretical calculations of interaction of the probe witli atmosphere and high-speed impact of this spacecraft on surface of object.


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