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Interplanetary Meteoroid Environment for Exploration

The control and avoidance of collisional effects on man made space hardware is the purpose of ESA’s Interplanetary Meteoroid Environment for Exploration, IMEX. Meteoroid impacts can destroy whole spacecraft or can damage sensitive parts thereof. Cratering or penetration of spacecraft skin can compro- mise the proper functioning of complex systems. Erosion of sensitive surfaces by direct hits of micron-sized meteoroids or secondary ejecta and spall fragments can cause loss of sensitivity of optical and other sys- tems. Secondary effects such as electromagnetic pulses generated by the plasma release from impacts can interfere or even destroy sensitive electronics. Manned space activities like the Near Earth Exploration Minimum System (NEMS) mission are especially vulnerable to any damage caused by meteoroid impacts because of their much lower tolerance level. Because of its sheer size - with a cross-section of several 100 square meters - and the months-long exposure time, it is almost certain that NEMS will be hit by millimetre-sized high-speed projectiles. Therefore, any useful environment model needs to have high fidelity even to centimetre-sized meteoroids. The IMEX ‘Dust Streams in Space’ project aims to extend ESA’s Interplanetary Meteoroid En- vironment Model (IMEM) by characterising dust streams in space which pose a risk for large structures in interplanetary space. The output of this project is a computer code to access meteoroid data and calculate the fluxes and speeds of meteoroids in interplanetary space.

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Calculations are supported by the Constellation network