For a student project we are looking into the possibility of detecting micrometeoroid (micrometer-size) impacts on the lunar surface with cubesats equipped with a thermal imaging device. We have found sources suggesting that the temperature on impact would be around 3000K.

We are now looking at using a thermal imaging device with a Noise Equivalent Temperature difference (NEdT) of 25mK. This NEdT however is for a heat source very close to the sensor and also with a much lower temperature than what our system would try to detect. This sensitivity apparently increases when the temperature of the heat source increases. What we don't know is how this sensitivity scales and whether an IR camera with this sensitivity could detect these temperature differences.

Our cubesat will be delivered into a 500km circular orbit (orientation is yet to be chosen) but we are allowed to carry propulsion systems so the orbit can be lowered.

  • $\begingroup$ Circular lunar orbit? Those are unstable on timescales of months or years. The only long-term stable orbits are in particular rather eccentric families. $\endgroup$ – Nathan Tuggy Dec 4 '16 at 15:02
  • $\begingroup$ @NathanTuggy "student project" this seems to be an exercise in spacecraft instrumentation design for educational purposes. Maybe another group will handle orbital mechanics (and maybe not!) $\endgroup$ – uhoh Dec 4 '16 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ @NathanTuggy As far as i know there are inclinations that provide stable (frozen) circular orbits. We are not sure about the inclination we will use yet but if we choose not to use one of these frozen orbits, orbit correction would of course be necessary. link $\endgroup$ – Alexander Vandenberghe Dec 4 '16 at 15:18
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh We have to design the whole mission (of course only to a certain level of detail) but at this point we are trying to assess the feasibility of several concepts for micrometeoroid impact flux measurements, one of the concepts is detecting the heat released upon impact. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Vandenberghe Dec 4 '16 at 15:22
  • $\begingroup$ It's always okay to answer your own question in Stack Exchange. If there was some progress or conclusions, feel free to post an answer and even accept it. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Feb 4 '19 at 8:37

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