05/03/2016 The art of landing on an asteroid - Section : Article
Researchers in France have customised a drop tower to simulate landing a CubeSat on an asteroid in the near-absence of gravity – part of the preparations for ESA’s Asteroid Impact Mission.
“We’ve taken an existing drop tower, previously designated for aircraft and material drop-tests, to simulate a low-gravity landing,” explains Naomi Murdoch of the Institut Supérieur de l’Aéronautique et de l’ESpace (ISAE-Supaero), part of the University of Toulouse.
Drop tower simulates asteroid landing
“The actual lander would be just 30 x 10 x 10 cm in size, too small to have any active attitude or landing control, but the gravity is so low – far lower still than we are simulating – that it can land safely anyway, although an initial rebound is likely.”
Research teams across Europe submitted proposals for these first European CubeSats to operate in deep space, intended to boost AIM’s science and technology demonstration goals. Five proposals have been chosen by ESA for detailed study.
David Mimoun(S 1993) Associate Professor at ISAE-Supaero, explains: “The research we are doing is for the AGEX mission consortium – combining the Royal Observatory of Belgium, ISAE-Supaero, EMXYS, Antwerp Space and Asteroid Initiatives Ltd in the US – with one CubeSat lander and a second CubeSat dISPatching still-smaller ‘chipsats’.
“Our lander would be equipped with accelerometers to capture the details of its surface interaction as it lands, to find out more about the mechanical properties of the asteroid surface."
“Then, once safely down, the CubeSat will use geophones to study the asteroid’s seismic activity and interior structure – do thermal and tidal shifts over the course of Didymoon’s orbit trigger seismic events?
“The lander will also have microcameras embedded into each of its faces and a gravimeter to measure the local gravity and rotational properties of Didymoon.”
“The AGEX lander will provide a direct test of Mascot-2’s deployment and landing strategy at Didymos and our research will help with planning the landing of both the CubeSats and Mascot-2,” concludes Dr Murdoch."
“It may also benefit the Mascot-1 lander, already in space on Japan’s Hayabusa-2, set to arrive at the Ryugu asteroid in 2018.”
Source : Blackbird - March 2, 2016
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