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Meteoroid and space debris impacts in grazing-incidence telescopes

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journal contribution
posted on 2012-10-24, 09:21 authored by J. D. Carpenter, A. Wells, A. F. Abbey, R. M. Ambrosi
Context. Micrometeoroid or space debris impacts have been observed in the focal planes of the XMM-Newton and Swift-XRT (X-ray Telescope) X-ray observatories. These impacts have resulted in damage to, and in one case the failure of, focal-plane Charge-Coupled Device (CCDs) detectors. Aims. We aim to quantify the future risks of focal-plane impacts in present and future X-ray observatories. Methods. We present a simple model for the propagation of micrometeoroids and space debris particles into telescopes with grazing-incidence X-ray optics, which is based on the results of previous investigations into grazing-incidence hypervelocity impacts by microscopic particles. We then calculate micrometeoroid and space debris fluxes using the Micrometeoroid and Space Debris Terrestrial Environment Reference model (MASTER2005). The risks of future focal-plane impact events in three present (Swift-XRT, XMM-Newton, and Chandra) and two future (SIMBOL-X and XEUS) X-ray observatories are then estimated on the basis of the calculated fluxes and the model for particle propagation. Results. The probabilities of at least one impact occurring in the Swift-XRT, XMM-Newton, and Chandra focal planes, in a one year period from the time of writing in November 2007 are calculated to be ~5% and ~50% and ~3%. First-order predictions of the impact rates expected for the future SIMBOL-X and XEUS X-ray observatories yield probabilities for at least one focal-plane impact, during nominal 5-year missions, of more than 94% and 99%, respectively. Conclusions. The propagation of micrometeoroids and space debris particles into the focal planes of X-ray telescopes is highest for Wolter optics with the largest collecting areas and the lowest grazing angles. Telescopes in low-Earth orbits encounter enhanced particle fluxes compared with those in higher orbits and a pointing avoidance strategy for certain directions can reduce the risk of impacts. Future X-ray observatories, with large collecting areas and long focal lengths, may experience much higher impact rates on their focal-plane detectors than those currently in operation. This should be considered in the design and planning of future missions.



Astronomy & Astrophysics, 2008, 483 (3), pp. 941-947


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