Spin-Off Application of Silica Aerogel in Space: Capturing Intact Cosmic Dust in Low-Earth Orbits and Beyond
A spin-off application of transparent, low-density silica aerogel as a dust-capture medium in space is described. We provide an overview of the physics behind the hypervelocity capture of dust using aerogels and chronicle their history of use as dust collectors. In addition, recent developments regarding the high-performance aerogel used in the Tanpopo mission are presented.
KeywordsSilica aerogel Low-density material Cosmic dust Low-Earth orbit Astrobiology Tanpopo
The author is grateful to the members of the Tanpopo team for their contributions to CP development. Additionally, the author is grateful to Prof. H. Kawai of Chiba University and Prof. I. Adachi of KEK for their assistance in aerogel production. Furthermore, the author is thankful to the JEM Mission Operations and Integration Center, Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate, JAXA. This study was partially supported by the Hypervelocity Impact Facility (former name: Space Plasma Laboratory) at ISAS, JAXA, the Venture Business Laboratory at Chiba University, a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (B) (No. 6H04823), and a Grant-in-Aid for JSPS Fellows (No. 07J02691) from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS).
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