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Suborbital Particle Aggregation and Collision Experiment-2 (SPACE-2) (SPACE-2)

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Suborbital Particle Aggregation and Collision Experiment-2 (SPACE-2)
As space exploration focuses increasingly on small Solar System bodies like asteroids and comets, it becomes crucial to understand the formation processes of these objects, in order to anticipate their structure and composition. In the early Solar System (Solar Nebula), a disk of gas and dust, mm- to cm-sized grains collided and aggregated into bigger bodies. The dynamical parameters of such multiparticle systems are essential to the understanding of the evolution of protoplanetary disks and ultimately the shaping of our Solar System as we see it today Measuring these particle collision and aggregation parameters can be performed by running particle collision experiments. To reach the slow relative speed levels present in the Solar Nebula, these experiments have to be performed under microgravity conditions (Earth’s gravity in a laboratory makes collisions speeds under ~1 m/s impossible to reach). The longer the particle system can be under microgravity conditions, the slower the relative speeds of the particles can become, and aggregation and clustering can be observed. The Suborbital Particle Aggregation and Collision Experiment-2 (SPACE-2) flies a set of four (4) experiment cells containing different types of particles to record their behavior and aggregation under microgravity conditions. The flight on a suborbital rocket offers about 90 consecutive seconds of microgravity and an ideal platform to study particle behavior in protoplanetary disks conditions. The technical features tested during the flight will allow for a miniaturization of particle collision experiments and the preparation of a CubeSat mission due to fly at the end of 2016. Q-PACE (CubeSat-Particle Aggregation and Collision Experiment) will allow for the observation of a multi-particle system in unprecedented long-term microgravity conditions, delivering a very high amount of new collision data to the scientific community and enabling statistical analysis of these collisions (compared to the classical single particle analysis). In addition, a re-designed particle shaking mechanism allowing the complete reset of the experiment and a particle injection mechanism maximizing the scientific data return will be tested under near-space and long-term microgravity conditions. More »

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