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NASA Facts Explorer XVI the Micro Meteoroid Satellite

NASA Facts Explorer XVI the Micro Meteoroid Satellite

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Published by Bob Andrepont
NASA Facts booklet on Explorer 16
NASA Facts booklet on Explorer 16

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Published by: Bob Andrepont on Dec 03, 2010
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12/03/2010

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Page
1
A
An Educational Services Publication
of
theNational Aeronautics and Space Administration
\lol.
I!
No.
4
(Replaces
A-1
-63)
/
Source of Acquisition
EXPLORER
XV
/
NASA
Contractor/Grantee
CROMETEORO
D
SATELL
Explorer
XVI
in orbit (artist's conception). Experiment devices are indicated.
NASA's Explorer
XVI
satellite collected andtransmitted information about micrometeoroids-tiny bits of matter speeding through space andsometimes entering the earth's atmosphere.Micrometeoroids are much smaller than themeteors or "shooting stars" which cross theheavens with brilliant effect at certain times ofthe year. Meteors encountered in space arealled meteoroids. The much smaller particlestudied by Explorer
XVI
are called micro-Sent into orbit December 16, 1962, theMicrometeoroid Satellite transmitted data relat-ing to the number of micrometeoroids encoun-tered, the force with which they bombarded thesatellite's structure, their destructive effect, andthe comparative resistance of different thick-nesses and types of materials to penetration bythe micrometeoroids.Data on the momentum of the particles havehelped determine the mass (amount of matter),distribution, and flux (rate of flow) of micro-meteoroids in the path of Explorer
XVI.
Resultsof the studies are expected to contribute to thedesign of future spacecraft by determining whatdamage may be done by micrometeoroids, andhow to guard against such damage.
 
Page
2
Explorers
I
hrough XV are described in
NASA
FACTS-
THE
EXPLORER SATELLITES
(E-10-62).
The Explorers are geophysical satellites of various con-figurations developed to study the space environmentand upper atmosphere surrounding earth, including suchphenomena as radiation, micrometeoroids, tempera-tures, magnetic field, and solar plasma. Investigationsat greater distances are accomplished by other devicessuch as the Pioneer, Ranger, and Mariner spacecraft.
--
MICROMETEOROIDS-A SPACE ENIGMA
Little
is
known about micrometeoroids.Knowl-edge about these enigmatic particles stems fromradar and optical tracking of their trails afterthey hit earth's atmosphere and from their im-pacts with instruments of spacecraft.Amongother spacecraft that have provided informationon micrometeoroids are the Explorers
I,
VII, andVlll and the Vanguard
Ill
satellites; the Pioneer
I
probe; and Mariner
II,
the instrumented vehicle
NASA FACTS (VOL.
II
NO.
4)
their momentums on striking spacecraft detectors,indicate velocities ranging from about 25,000 toapproximately 160,000 miles per hour.It
is
theorized that micrometeoroids are grain-
a
sized cousins of the meteoroids.If this
is
true,micrometeoroids are composed of iron, silicates,and other substances found on earth. Analysesof meteorites (meteoroids that have fallen toearth) have revealed that they are constituted ofsuch substances.Suggestions regarding origins of micrometeor-oids include the possibility that they are pulver-ized remnants of colliding asteroids ormeteoroids, residues of former comets, leftoversof a great cloud of dust and gas from which thesolar system may have been formed, and t'iosenear earth perhaps have been cast off by themoon.
NASA technician prepares Explorer XVI for vacuum chambertest in which extremes
of
heat and cold expected in spaceare simulated.
sent from earth to the neighborhood of Venus.Spacecraft have discovered that periodicallythere are micrometeoroid showers lasting fromseveral hours to a few days. Comparison ofmicrometeoroid counts provided by satellites nearearth with reports of Mariner
II
and Pioneer
I
indicates that micrometeoroid density tends todecrease with distance from earth.As an exam-ple, analysis of Mariner
I1
and earth satellite dataows that micrometeoroids in space near earthe about
10,000
times more abundant thanalong Mariner's trajectory in interplanetary space.Calculations of particle speeds, based upon
NASA technicians test four-stage Scout launch vehicle.NoteExplorer XVI in foreground. Covering which protects satel-lite during launch, is jettisoned in orbit.
SPACECRAFT EXPERIMENTS
The experiments of Explorer XVI were designedprimarily
to
tell what micrometeoroids can do tomaterials that may be used in future spacecraft.They were also aimed at gathering additionalinformation on these particles.The satellite's array of instruments and sensorsincludes the following:
i
(1 Pressurized cells shaped like half cylinderswith walls fashioned from one-thousandth to five-thousandth inch thick beryllium copper. The
@
cells contain helium gas held under pressure.
A
 
NASA
FACTS
(VOL.
II
NO.
4)
Page
3
I
type of rnicrometeoroid satellite i.e., with experiments builtdipped into the denser portions of earth's atmosphere where
I
to less than thatd when Explorer
jmicrometeoroid puncture releases the gas andcuit. This lowered resistance level
is
recordeddrops pressure, activating an electronic circuit for transmittal to earth.for reporting this information to earth.
(3)
Wire grids consisting of copper wire two-
(2)
Two groups of foil gauges, one protectedand three-thousands inch thick mounted on rec-by stainless steel a thousandth of an inch thicktangular melamine cards. When micrometeoroidsand the other shielded by stainless steel six-break the wires, the lowered resistance level ofthousandth of an inch thick.
A
micrometeoroidan electronic circuit
is
recorded.that passes through the steel breaks the foil,
(4)
Cadmium sulfide cells shielded by a mi-changing the resistance level in an electronic cir-crothin sheet of polymer plastic coated withvaporized aluminum. When a micrometeoroidpierces the shield,
it
admits light to the cell,changing the cell's resistance. The amount oflight admitted gives information on the size ofthe micrometeoroid.
(5)
Impact detectors that convert the momen-tum of micrometeoroids impacting on the detectorassembly into an electrical impulse. The detec-tor has three different levels of sensitivity. Datafrom impact detectors are correlated with that ofmicrometeoroid effects on materials in the pres-sure cell experiment.
(6)
Five test groups of silicon solar cells tomeasure deterioration caused by micrometeoroidsand compare the effectiveness of different thick-nesses and types of protective coatings. Somecells have glass shields six-thousandth inch thick.Others are protected by three-sixteenth inch thickquartz windows.
A
third group
is
unshielded.The solar cells are wired to report on theirconditions.
RESULTS
Explorer
XVI
has established conclusively thatmicrometeoroids can puncture thin surfaces.Until the satellite furnished this evidence, thehazard that micrometeoroids posed to spacecraftwas presumed but not proved. Previous satel-lites were capable of reporting only impacts bythese mysterious particles.Analysis of information sent by Explorer XVIduring the
7%
months in which it transmitted
During pre-launch tests, the micrometeoroid satellite, mountedin a supporting rig and cushioned by aluminum honeycomb
useful data indicates
44
punctures of its beryllium-
material (bottom), is dropped to simulate the shock to which
copper walls one-thousandth inch thick and
1
1
it will be subiect when the Scout rockets fire.
penetrations of the two-thousandth inch thick

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