A document highlights a means to complement remote spectroscopy while also providing in situ surface samples without a landed system. Historically, most compositional analysis of small body surfaces has been done remotely by analyzing reflection or nuclear spectra. However, neither provides direct measurement that can unambiguously constrain the global surface composition and most importantly, the nature of trace composition and second-phase impurities.
Recently, missions such as Deep Space 1 and Dawn have utilized electric propulsion (EP) accelerated, high-energy collimated beam of Xe+ ions to propel deep space missions to their target bodies. The energies of the Xe+ are sufficient to cause sputtering interactions, which eject material from the top microns of a targeted surface. Using a mass spectrometer, the sputtered material can be determined. The sputtering properties of EP exhaust can be used to determine detailed surface composition of atmosphereless bodies by electric propulsion induced secondary mass spectroscopy (EPI-SMS).
EPI-SMS operation has three highlevel requirements: EP system, mass spectrometer, and altitude of about 10 km. Approximately 1 keV Xe+ has been studied and proven to generate high sputtering yields in metallic substrates. Using these yields, first-order calculations predict that EPI-SMS will yield high signal-to-noise at altitudes greater than 10 km with both electrostatic and Hall thrusters.
This work was done by Rashied Amini of Caltech and Geoffrey Landis of Glenn Research Center for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NPO-47798