Laboratory experiments with a laser-based attachment mechanism for spacecraft at small bodies

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Anthony , N , Frostevarg , J , Suhonen , H & Granvik , M 2021 , ' Laboratory experiments with a laser-based attachment mechanism for spacecraft at small bodies ' , Acta Astronautica , vol. 189 , pp. 391-397 . https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actaastro.2021.08.028

Title: Laboratory experiments with a laser-based attachment mechanism for spacecraft at small bodies
Author: Anthony, Niklas; Frostevarg, Jan; Suhonen, Heikki; Granvik, Mikael
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Department of Physics
University of Helsinki, Department of Physics
Date: 2021-12
Language: eng
Number of pages: 7
Belongs to series: Acta Astronautica
ISSN: 0094-5765
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/335513
Abstract: We present the results of two sets of experiments that investigate laser-based metal-to-rock attachment techniques. Asteroids and comets have low surface gravity which pose a challenge to landers with moving parts. Such parts can generate torques and forces which may tip the lander over or launch it into deep space. Thus, if a lander on a small body is to have moving parts, the spacecraft must be equipped with an anchoring mechanism. To this end, we sought to use a laser to melt and bind a piece of metal mimicking a part of a spacecraft to a rock mimicking the surface of a typical asteroid. In the first set of experiments, extra material was not fed in during the processing. The second set were performed using a standard wire feeder used in laser welding, which added metal to the experiment during processing. During the first experiments, we discovered that a traditional weld, where two melt pools mix and solidify to form a strong bond, was not possible-the melt pools would not mix, and when they did, the resulting weld was extremely brittle. The second set of experiments resulted in a physico-mechanical bond, where a hole was drilled with a laser, and a wire was melted and fed into the hole. These latter experiments were successful in forming bonds as strong as 115 N. Such an attachment mechanism can also be used to maneuver small boulders on asteroid surfaces, to redirect small, monolithic asteroids, or in space-debris removal.
Subject: Spacecraft anchoring
Laser drilling
High-speed imaging
X-ray micro-tomography
Asteroid mining
115 Astronomy, Space science
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