The Damage to Lunar Orbiting Spacecraft Caused by the Ejecta of Lunar Landers

20 May 2023  ·  Philip T. Metzger, James G. Mantovani ·

This manuscript analyzes lunar lander soil erosion models and trajectory models to calculate how much damage will occur to spacecraft orbiting in the vicinity of the Moon. The soil erosion models have considerable uncertainty due to gaps in our understanding of the basic physics. The results for ~40 t landers show that the Lunar Orbital Gateway will be impacted by 1000s to 10,000s of particles per square meter but the particle sizes are very small and the impact velocity is low so the damage will be slight. However, a spacecraft in Low Lunar Orbit that happens to pass through the ejecta sheet will sustain extensive damage with hundreds of millions of impacts per square meter: although they are small, they are in the hypervelocity regime, and exposed glass on the spacecraft will sustain spallation over 4% of its surface.

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Earth and Planetary Astrophysics Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics Fluid Dynamics Space Physics