A total of 87 microcraters >30 μm in diameter that were found in gold substrates exposed on the trailing edge of the non-spinning Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) yielded analyzable projectile residues in their interiors. Using qualitative SEM-EDS analysis methods, some 60 of these craters were formed by natural cosmic-dust particles, while 27 residues (31%) were assigned to orbital debris (Hörz et al., 1993). The far majority of the orbital-debris impacts, 24 (89%) of the 27 events, contained only aluminum in their X-ray spectra. The present study evaluates these aluminum-rich residues in detail and employs a windowless X-ray detector, which permits for the analysis of low-Z elements and specifically of oxygen. This makes it possible to discriminate between oxidized (Al2O3) and metallic (Al) projectiles from dramatically different sources, the former produced during solid-fuel rocket firings, the latter resulting from explosively or collisionally disrupted spacecraft.
Space Debris – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 8, 2004
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