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Risk Assessment of Cassini Sun Sensor Integrity Due to Hypervelocity Impact of Saturn Dust ParticlesA sophisticated interplanetary spacecraft, Cassini is one of the heaviest and most sophisticated interplanetary spacecraft humans have ever built and launched. Since achieving orbit at Saturn in 2004, Cassini has collected science data throughout its four-year prime mission (2004-08), and has since been approved for first and second extended missions through September 2017. In late 2016, the Cassini spacecraft will begin a daring set of ballistic orbits that will hop the rings and dive between the upper atmosphere of Saturn and its innermost D-ring twenty-two times. The "dusty" environment of the inner D-ring region the spacecraft must fly through is hazardous because of the possible damage that dust particles, travelling at speeds as high as 31.4 km/s, can do to spacecraft hardware. During hazardous proximal ring-plane crossings, the Cassini mission operation team plans to point the high-gain antenna to the RAM vector in order to protect most of spacecraft instruments from the incoming energetic ring dust particles. However, this particular spacecraft attitude will expose two Sun sensors (that are mounted on the antenna dish) to the incoming dust particles. High-velocity impacts on the Sun sensor cover glass might penetrate the 2.54-mm glass cover of the Sun sensor. Even without penetration damage, craters created by these impacts on the surface of the cover glass will degrade the transmissibility of light through it. Apart from being directly impacted by the dust particles, the Sun sensors are also threatened by some fraction of ricochet ejecta that are produced by dust particle impacts on the large antenna dish (made of graphite fiber epoxy composite material). Finally, the spacecraft attitude control system must cope with disturbances due to both the translational and angular impulses imparted on the large antenna dish and the long magnetometer boom by the incoming high-velocity projectiles. Analyses performed to quantify the risks the Sun sensors must contend with during these hazardous ring-plane crossings are given in this paper
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
External Source(s)
Lee, Allan Y. (Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Date Acquired
September 1, 2017
Publication Date
January 4, 2016
Subject Category
Lunar and Planetary Science and Exploration
Statistics and Probability
Space Transportation and Safety
Meeting Information
Annual AIAA Science and Technology Forum and Exposition (AIAA SciTech) 2016(San Diego, CA)
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