Computer modelling of a penetrator thermal sensor

Paton, M. D.; Kargl, G.; Ball, A. J.; Green, S. F.; Hagermann, A.; Kömle, N. I.; Thiel, M. and Zarnecki, J. C. (2010). Computer modelling of a penetrator thermal sensor. Advances in Space Research, 46(3) pp. 337–345.



The Philae lander is part of the Rosetta mission to investigate comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It will use a harpoon like device to anchor itself onto the surface. The anchor will perhaps reach depths of 1–2 m. In the anchor is a temperature sensor that will measure the boundary temperature as part of the MUPUS experiment. As the anchor attains thermal equilibrium with the comet ice it may be possible to extract the thermal properties of the surrounding ice, such as the thermal diffusivity, by using the temperature sensor data. The anchor is not an optimal shape for a thermal probe and application of analytical solutions to the heat equation is inappropriate. We prepare a numerical model to fit temperature sensor data and extract the thermal diffusivity. Penetrator probes mechanically compact the material immediately surrounding them as they enter the target. If the thermal properties, composition and dimensions of the penetrator are known, then the thermal properties of this pristine material may be recovered although this will be a challenging measurement. We report on investigations, using a numerical thermal model, to simulate a variety of scenarios that the anchor may encounter and how they will affect the measurement.

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