Spacecraft Geometry Effects on Kinetic Impactor Missions

Owen, J. Michael; DeCoster, Mallory E.; Graninger, Dawn M.; Raducan, Sabina D. (2022). Spacecraft Geometry Effects on Kinetic Impactor Missions. The planetary science journal, 3(9), p. 218. IOP Publishing 10.3847/psj/ac8932

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The DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) mission will impact a spacecraft on the secondary (Dimorphos) of the binary asteroid system Didymos in 2022 September, with the goal of altering the orbital period of Dimorphos about Didymos sufficiently to be observed from ground-based observations. Numerical impact modeling is a crucial component in understanding the outcome of the DART experiment, and while many have investigated the effects of target properties, such as material strength and porosity (which remain unknown), an often overlooked factor is the importance of accurately representing the spacecraft itself in such models. Most impact modeling to date has considered simple impactor geometries such as a solid uniform sphere, but in reality the spacecraft is a complex shape full of different components, open spaces, and thin walled structures. At a minimum, a simple solid representation underestimates the surface area of the impact: for a small body such as Dimorphos (approximately 160 m in diameter), the difference between a spacecraft spanning 20 m (including solar arrays) impacting and a sub-1 m idealized shape may be important. In this paper, we compare models impacting high-fidelity models of the spacecraft based on the CAD geometry with various simplified impactors, in order to assess the potential importance of this effect. We find that the difference between the simplest impactor geometries (such as a uniform sphere) and the real spacecraft is measurable, and has an interesting dependence on the material properties of the asteroid itself.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Space Research and Planetary Sciences
08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute

UniBE Contributor:

Raducan, Sabina-Denisa


500 Science > 520 Astronomy
600 Technology > 620 Engineering




IOP Publishing




Dora Ursula Zimmerer

Date Deposited:

16 Mar 2023 16:20

Last Modified:

19 Mar 2023 02:15

Publisher DOI:





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