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In this answer I mention the proposed impact of DART:

DART's impact velocity would be about 6 km/s on a body so small that the momentum transfer is hoped to measurably change its orbit around a companion asteroid.

I wondered about impacts used for other reasons, so I'd like to ask:

  1. What's the highest velocity impact between a spacecraft and a solar system body?

  2. What about for a dedicated impactor (spacecraft component)?

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I'm not 100% sure that Deep Impact was the highest velocity impact, but I think it was. What's crazy is that it wasn't even a head-on collision. JPL just put the impactor out in front of Tempel-1 and let the comet hit it.

In the interest of a complete answer that can be amended with further information here's a list of known impactors, and their impact velocities:

  • Deep Impact ~10.3 km/s -- dedicated impactor (see page 13)
  • Messenger ~ 3.8 km/s -- impacted on decomissioning
  • LCROSS ~ 2.5 km/s -- dedicated impactor (Centaur upper stage)
  • Apollo SIVBs ~ 1.6-2.6 km/s -- impacted for debris mitigation
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  • $\begingroup$ Hey this is great! Can I ask you to indicate somehow which are dedicated impactors and which are spacecraft? Thanks! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Feb 12 at 23:37
  • $\begingroup$ I didn't include spacecraft that de-orbited into the gas giants, since I figured you were only asking about impacts to solid bodies. I also left out Mars Climate Observer (the units crash) since it is believed to have burned up in the atmosphere. $\endgroup$ – DuffBeerBaron Feb 13 at 15:57
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    $\begingroup$ Schiaparelli isn't even in the running -- it crashed into Mars at about 0.15 km/s. If anyone was wondering. $\endgroup$ – Roger Feb 13 at 17:03

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