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Lunar Regolith Trajectories as a Result of Plume Surface Interactions

Presentation #311.05 in the session “Moon”.

Published onOct 03, 2021
Lunar Regolith Trajectories as a Result of Plume Surface Interactions

Lunar regolith is ejected from the impingement points of descent engine plumes. Such particles pose potential risks to surface operations, sites of scientific and historical interest, and orbiting spacecraft. Consequently, determining the resultant trajectories of these particles is necessary in order to estimate and mitigate risk. Here we present the ranges, impact latitudes, times of flight, and maximum altitudes for particles accelerated by a plume surface interaction at the lunar south pole. Using launch angles determined from observations and simulations, and for velocities <1.6 km/s, particles pose little risk. However, above 1.6 km/s the risks increase, and the results become highly sensitive to the initial angle. In addition, gravitational and non-gravitational processes will introduce perturbations to high-velocity trajectories resulting in a reduction in precision. Therefore, while local topography or artificial berms may mitigate trajectories with low initial angles, it remains important to place tight constraints on the potential launch angles of particles accelerated by plume surface interactions through simulations and experimentation. If these angles are indeed constrained to within a few degrees of the horizon, the risks posed by accelerated regolith particles at any velocity will be minimal.

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