Description: To protect spacecraft from orbital debris requires a basic understanding of the processes involved in hypervelocity impacts and characterization of detectors to measure the space environment. Both require a source of well characterized hypervelocity particles. Electrostatic acceleration of charged microspheres provides such a source. Techniques refined at the Los Alamos National Laboratory provided information on hypervelocity impacts of particles of known mass and velocity ranging from 20-1000 nm diameter and 1-100 km/s. A Van De Graaff generator operating at 6 million volts was used to accelerate individual carbonyl iron microspheres produced by a specially designed particle source. Standard electrostatic lenses and steering were used to control the particles flight path. Charge sensitive pickoff tubes measured the particle charge and velocity in- flight without disturbing the particle. This information coupled with the measured Van De Graaff terminal voltage allowed calculation of the particle energy, mass, momenta and (using an assumed density) the size. Particles with the desired parameters were then electrostatically directed to a target chamber. Targets used in our experiments included cratering and foil puncture targets, microphone momentum enhancement detectors, triboluminescent detectors, and ``splash`` charge detectors. In addition the system has been used to rapidly characterize size distributions of conductive plastic particles and potentially provide a method of easily sorting microscopic particles by size.
Date: November 1, 1996
Creator: Idzorek, G.C.
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