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Low-velocity impacts into granular material: application to small-body landing

Abstract : With the flourishing number of small body missions that involve surface interactions, understanding the mechanics of spacecraft - surface interactions is crucial for improving our knowledge about the landing phases of space missions, for preparing spacecraft operations, and for interpreting the results of measurements made during the surface interactions. Given their regolith-covered surfaces, the process of landing on a small body can be considered as an impact at low-velocity onto a granular material in reduced-gravity. In order to study the influence of the surface material, projectile shape, and gravity on the collision dynamics we used two experimental configurations (one for terrestrial gravity experiments and one for reduced-gravity experiments) to perform low-velocity collisions into different types of granular materials: quartz sand, and two different sizes of glass beads (1.5 and 5 mm diameter). Both a spherical and a cubic projectile (with varying impact orientation) were used. The experimental data support a drag model for the impact dynamics composed of both a hydrodynamic drag force and quasi-static resistance force. The hydrodynamic and quasi-static contributions are related to the material frictional properties, the projectile geometry, and the gravity. The transition from a quasi-static to a hydrodynamical regime is shown to occur at lower impact velocities in reduced-gravity trials than in terrestrial gravity trials, indicating that regolith has a more fluid-like behaviour in low-gravity. The reduced quasi-static regime of a granular material under low-gravity conditions leads to a reduction in the strength, resulting in a decreased resistance to penetration and larger penetration depths.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, March 24, 2021 - 10:23:37 AM
Last modification on : Thursday, September 16, 2021 - 3:32:33 AM


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Naomi Murdoch, Mélanie Drilleau, Cecily Sunday, Florian Thuillet, Arnaud Wilhelm, et al.. Low-velocity impacts into granular material: application to small-body landing. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Oxford University Press (OUP): Policy P - Oxford Open Option A, 2021, 503 (3), pp.0. ⟨10.1093/mnras/stab624⟩. ⟨hal-03179064⟩



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