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Characterizing Chemical Changes From Impacts On Spacecraft

ID: 2015-017 A method and apparatus to characterize the chemical changes caused by hypervelocity impacts of molecules on spacecraft instruments.

Principal Investigator: Daniel Austin

Mass spectrometers on spacecraft are commonly used to determine the chemical compounds present in planetary exospheres and other rarefied gaseous media in the solar system. Due to the high velocity with which spacecraft typically fly through these targets, molecules impinging on the mass spectrometer inlet are likely to fragment, obscuring the original composition of the exosphere. There is not currently a way to determine experimentally how molecules will break apart in this context.

The invention is an instrument and method that allows this high-velocity scenario to be recreated in the lab, thereby allowing the fragmentation process to be understood. Prior and future space mission results will be able to properly interpret data by incorporating the results of experiments enabled by this technology.

About the Market:

This invention can be used (and may eventually be required) to test, calibrate, and aid in design of future space flight instrumentation, in particular mass spectrometers. It thus would be of interest to space hardware vendors and other groups intending to build space flight instrumentation.

For more information, contact Mike Alder (801-422-3049)

Links and Resources

  1. Inventor Webpage - Daniel Austin