Fraunhofer EMI Fires off a Kinetic Impactor Gas Gun

Fraunhofer EMI (Institute for High-Speed Dynamics, Ernst-Mach-Institute), Europe’s largest application-oriented non-profit research organization and a member of the NEOShield consortium, made great progress on research for the kinetic impactor when they fired off a gas gun in Freiburg, Germany in May 2013.

One of the key mitigation methods of the NEOShield project, the kinetic impactor, is the method being tested with the gas gun. Watch the video below, featuring close up footage of the shot, the analysis, as well as interviews with DLR’s Dr. Alan Harris and EMI’s Prof. Dr. Frank Schäfer discussing the purpose of the gas gun experiment.

Credit: Fraunhofer EMI

The gas gun works as a simulator for the kinetic impactor mitigation method. It is necessary to understand the reactions when a material, which could be anywhere from a porous rock body to a dense, non-porous rock body, is impacted by a projectile. The experiment tests this method by accelerating a millimetre sized object to around 10km per second (that’s 36 thousand km per hour!) to hit a stone block.

In conclusion, much material was ejected from the stone, making a transient crater and the transfer of momentum caused the material to eject backwards; thus, creating an additional forward acceleration. This is the exact theoretical process of the kinetic impactor. The subsequent step is to determine how to increase the transfer of momentum as much as possible according to the speed of impact, material and shape. The NEOShield project works towards ideally testing the kinetic impactor on a real asteroid in the frame of a future demonstration mission.

by Emily Hamid

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