Accelerometry measurements using the Rosetta Lander's anchoring harpoon: experimental set-up, data reduction and signal analysis

Kargl, Günter; Macher, Wolfgang; Kömle, Norbert I.; Thiel, Markus; Rohe, Christian and Ball, Andrew J. (2001). Accelerometry measurements using the Rosetta Lander's anchoring harpoon: experimental set-up, data reduction and signal analysis. Planetary And Space Science, 49(5) pp. 425–435.



In the years 2011–2013 the ESA mission Rosetta will explore the short period comet 46P/Wirtanen. The aims of the mission include investigation of the physical and chemical properties of the cometary nucleus and also the evolutionary processes of comets. It is planned to land a small probe on the surface of the comet, carrying a multitude of sensors devoted to in situ investigation of the material at the landing site. On touchdown at the nucleus, an anchoring harpoon will be fired into the surface to avoid a rebound of the lander and to supply a reaction force against mechanical operations such as sample drilling or instrument platform motion. The anchor should also prevent an ejection of the lander due to gas drag from sublimating volatiles when the comet becomes more active closer to the Sun. In this paper, we report on the development of one of the sensors of the MUPUS instrument aboard the Rosetta Lander, the MUPUS ANC-M (mechanical properties) sensor. Its purpose is to measure the deceleration of the anchor harpoon during penetration into the cometary soil. First the test facilities at the Max-Planck-Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany, are briefly described. Subsequently, we analyse several accelerometer signals obtained from test shots into various target materials. A procedure for signal reduction is described and possible errors that may be superimposed on the true acceleration or deceleration of the anchor are discussed in depth, with emphasis on the occurrence of zero line offsets in the signals. Finally, the influence of high-frequency resonant oscillations of the anchor body on the signals is discussed and difficulties faced when trying to derive grain sizes of granular target materials are considered. It is concluded that with the sampling rates used in this and several other space experiments currently under way or under development a reasonable resolution of strength distribution in soil layers can be achieved, but conclusions concerning grain size distribution would probably demand much higher sampling rates.

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