Europlanet Science Congress 2020
Virtual meeting
21 September – 9 October 2020
Europlanet Science Congress 2020
Virtual meeting
21 September – 9 October 2020

Poster presentations and abstracts


The space exploration of small Solar System bodies has provided major breakthroughs in our understanding of Solar System formation and evolution and their links with free-sample delivered meteorites.  While the two sample return missions to asteroids, Hayabusa 2 and OSIRIS-REx, are ongoing, a few missions have been selected by ESA (Comet Interceptor), NASA (Lucy, Psyche), JAXA (MMX), and CNSA (ZhengHe) space agencies for a launch in this decade. For the long-term, ESA is preparing its next planning cycle « Voyage 2050 », and the next NASA decadal survey for Planetary Science will be issued in 2022.
In this framework, we welcome contributions about future space missions to asteroids and comets, in terms of both science and technology. This includes both missions and instruments in development, and concepts of future missions, or instruments. We invite contributions regarding the preparation, studies, and expected results from future sample return missions, including concepts for sampling methods, cryogenic aspects, curation facilities, and analysis tools.

Co-organized by MITM/EXO
Conveners: Dominique Bockelee-Morvan, Josep Maria Trigo-Rodríguez | Co-conveners: Eleonora Bianchi, John Robert Brucato, Mathieu Choukroun, Marco Delbo, Xian Shi, Colin Snodgrass

Session assets

Session summary

Chairperson: Xian Shi
Lisa Maria Eckart, Jon K. Hillier, and Frank Postberg

Space-based analyses of the compositions of cosmic dust have been successfully performed using impact ionisation mass spectrometers during missions to comets (e.g. Stardust’s Cometary and Interstellar Dust Analyzer, [1]) and the Jovian and Saturnian systems (e.g. Cassini’s Cosmic Dust Analyzer, [2]). Impact ionisation mass spectrometry relies on the generation of plasma during the hypervelocity impact of a dust grain onto a metal target. The plasma is separated by an applied electric field and the component of choice – cation or anion – then accelerated through a drift or reflectron region, onto an ion detector. Owing to the unique plasma generation mechanism, the composition of the plasma cloud is typically related to the impact energy, and in particular the impact velocity. At lower impact velocities (~3-8 km/s), spectra are dominated by easily ionised species, such as the alkali and alkali earth metals in cation spectra, or hydroxide and halogens in anion spectra (e.g. [3,4]). In cation spectra, typically the most diagnostic when investigating rocky minerals, with increasing impact velocity (>8-12 km/s), elemental lines from, for example, Fe, Si and O begin to appear in spectra, together with molecular cations (e.g. [3,4,5]). Above ~20 km/s, the plasma composition stabilises such that laboratory-derived relative sensitivity factors can be used to quantitively identify specific minerals [6], but it is not currently known how well similar determinations can also be achieved at lower velocities.

Although the majority are not expected to be “active” dust emitters, asteroids are believed to be surrounded by a dust shroud generated by micrometeorite gardening of their surfaces [7]. Recently, Cohen et al. 2019 [8] have predicted that asteroid classes, via comparison with specific meteorite types, can be identified by measuring the compositions of a suitable sample of such a dust shroud. In that work, cluster analysis and Monte Carlo simulations were used to calculate the number of single mineral composition grains from different meteorite types that would be required to definitively identify them. Typically, very broad identifying traits for individual spectra were considered: “oxide”, “silicate”, “Fe-Ni metal”, “sulfide” or “phosphate”, together with the measured Fe/Mg ratio of the silicates. However, at the low flyby speeds (< 8 km/s) typical of missions to the main belt, reliable measurements of Fe/Mg ratios in spectra, or identification of oxide, sulfide or even some silicate grains, is currently extremely challenging. 

To determine whether identifying and distinguishing between meteorites (and hence asteroid classes) can also occur using spectra typical of these low flyby velocities, we have analysed a collection of published meteorite bulk compositions, covering carbonaceous chondrites (CI, CM, CR, CV), ordinary chondrites (H, L, LL) and HED achondrite meteorites. Meteoritic abundances of minerals containing low ionisation energy elements (i.e. Na, Ca, Li, K, Ti, Cr, Mn, Zr and Ba, with ionisation energies <= 700 kJ/mol for the 7 km/s flyby speed case, and additionally Fe, Si, S, P, Cu, Co and Ni, with ionisation energies <=800 kJ/mol for the 9 km/s flyby speed case) together with Mg (known to appear in spectra from very low velocity impacts, e.g. [5]) and water/hydroxyl groups were determined. If suitable minerals were present at volume abundances >1 %, they were considered as candidates for discrimination. For the 7 km/s case, we find that the carbonaceous chondrites, ordinary chondrites and HED meteorites can be broadly distinguished between, with subtypes within the HED meteorites, and to a lesser extent, carbonaceous chondrites also individually identifiable. At 9 km/s, all three meteorite types, and their individual subtypes, can be readily identified and discriminated.



[1] Kissel, J. et al. (2003), Cometary and Interstellar Dust Analyzer for Comet Wild/2, JGR Planets, 108, E10, 8114.

[2] Srama et al. (2004), The Cassini Cosmic Dust Analyzer, Space Sci. Rev., 114, 465-518.

[3] Goldsworthy, B. J. et al. (2003), Time of flight mass spectra of ions in plasmas produced by hypervelocity impacts of organic and mineralogical microparticles on a cosmic dust analyser, A&A, 409, 1151-1167.

[4] Hillier, J. K. et al. (2014), Impact ionisation mass spectrometry of polypyrrole-coated pyrrhotite microparticles, Planet. Space Sci., 97, 9-22.

[5] Hillier, J. K. et al. (2018), Impact ionisation mass spectrometry of platinum-coated olivine and magnesite-dominated cosmic dust analogues, Planet. Space Sci., 156, 96-110.

[6] Fiege, K. et al. (2014), Calibration of relative sensitivity factors for impact ionization detectors with high-velocity silicate microparticles, Icarus, 241, 336-345.

[7] Szalay, J. & Horányi , M. (2016), The Impact Ejecta Environment of Near-Earth Asteroids, Ap. J. Lett., 830, L39.

[8] Cohen, B. A. et al. (2019), Using dust shed from asteroids as microsamples to link remote measurements with meteorite classes, MAPS, 54 (9), 2046-2066.

How to cite: Eckart, L. M., Hillier, J. K., and Postberg, F.: Relating Meteorites to Asteroid Parent Bodies by Analysis of Ejected Dust during Low Velocity Spacecraft Flybys, Europlanet Science Congress 2020, online, 21 Sep–9 Oct 2020, EPSC2020-577,, 2020.

Kai Wickhusen, Friedrich Damme, Antonio G. V. de Brum, Alexander Stark, Jean-Baptiste Vincent, Hauke Hussmann, and Jürgen Oberst


In this study we investigate the possibility of using terminator orbits that are stable over a period of three months to explore the triple near-earth asteroid (NEA) system 2001 SN263 with an orbiting spacecraft.  We study  in particular  the case of  the  mission ASTER  that is  under  study as  the  first Brazilian  deep  space mission [1].


The interest in the first identified Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) triple system 2001 SN263 increased greatly when the Brazilian space agency announced ASTER, a rendezvous mission to explore this unique target [2].

The analysis of the observational data of 2001 SN263 [3] suggested that the primary is approximately a spheroid with an equivalent diameter of about 2.6 km (2.8×2.7×2.5 km) and smaller companions, about 700 m and 430 m in diameter orbiting at distances of 16.6 and 3.8 km, respectively. 

For the spacecraft to move safely within the system, it is critical to identify and characterize regions of stability and instability (i.e., where collision or escape are imminent).  Furthermore,  observational and operational strategies to explore all three asteroids critically depend  on  availability  of  stable  spacecraft  orbits  (i.e.,  orbits  that  do  not  requiring  expensive  correction maneuvers). In this study we search for stable orbits within the triple asteroid system. The orbits are considered stable when the spacecraft does not escape or collide with the system for 3 months.

Data and methods

We modelled the gravitational field of each body in two steps.  First, we integrate the gravitational acceleration contributed by the mass of the object, represented by a polyhedron shape model (and assuming a homogeneous interior). In  a  second  step,  we  replace  this  reference  field  with  its  spherical  harmonics  approximation.

The spacecraft trajectories around the triple asteroid are calculated with a numerical integrator which solves the equation of motion, taking into account all relevant forces:

with GM being  the  standard  gravitational  parameter  of  the  primary  body  and  being the spacecraft’s position and acceleration, respectively. The main acceleration acting on the spacecraft is caused by the system’s primary body, represented by a point mass, in the first term of the equation.  Higher-order terms, which include the non-spherical gravity field of the main body, are included in the second term. The secondary and tertiary body are represented by the third term of the equation.  Additionally, the large Solar System bodies, such as Sun and Jupiter are also included as perturbing forces in  this  third  addend.   The  last  term  takes  into  account  the  solar  radiation  pressure  acting  on  the spacecraft. The spacecraft is modelled based on the mass and dimensions as specified for ASTER mission [4].

Results and Conclusion

The results show that stable terminator orbits within the triple asteroid system can be found, for which the orbital plane is perpendicular to the incoming solar radiation.

These stable orbits are found between the semi-major axes of the secondary and tertiary body, i.e., at a distance between 4 km and 13 km from the primary’s centre.

Figure 1: Example of stability regions of the Aster S/C model in the triple asteroid system. The stability depends on initial orientation of the orbital plane which is represented by the longitude of ascending node and the inclination. Initial elements: semi-major axis=8km, eccentricity=0, remaining elements=0°. The colour coding shows the difference between largest and shortest distance to the primary body over 3 months.

The most stable region is located at semi-major axes between 7 and 12 km. In the best cases, the distance variation of the S/C absolute distance from primary’s centre (r.max-r.min) varies less than 1 km over a time frame of 3 months.

Figure 1 shows these stability regions at an exemplary initial distance of 8 km. 


[1] Macau, E. E. N., Winter, O. C., Velho, H. F. C., Sukhanov, A. A., Brum, A. G. V., Ferreira, J. L., Hetem, A., & Sandonato, G.  M.  (2011).   The  ASTER  mission:   exploring  for  the  first  time  a  triple  system  asteroid.  InProceedings of the 62nd International Astronautical Congress.  Cape Town, SA. 

[2] Sukhanov, A. A., Velho, H. F. C., Macau, E. E. N., & Winter, O. C. (2010). The Aster project:  Flight to a near-Earth asteroid. Cosmic Research,48, 443–450. doi:10.1134/S0010952510050114.

[3] Becker, T. M., Howell, E. S., Nolan, M. C., et al. (2015). Physical modeling of triple near-Earth Asteroid (153591) 2001 SN263 from radar and optical light curve observations. Icarus, 248, 499, doi: 10.1016/j.icarus.2014.10.048

[4] Goretov, V., Lipatov, A., Linkin V. (2018) Description of the spacecraft on the EJP for near-earth and planetary research.


F.D. and J.O have been supported by a grant from the German Science Foundation (DFG-OB 124/19-1)

A.G.V. de Brum was supported by the São Paulo Research Foundation – FAPESP

How to cite: Wickhusen, K., Damme, F., de Brum, A. G. V., Stark, A., Vincent, J.-B., Hussmann, H., and Oberst, J.: Terminator Orbits around the Triple Asteroid 2001-SN263: A search for stable motion applicable to the mission ASTER, Europlanet Science Congress 2020, online, 21 Sep–9 Oct 2020, EPSC2020-835,, 2020.