Feasibility of using Low-Cost COTS Sensors for Particulate Monitoring in Space Missions



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51st International Conference on Environmental Systems


Real-time measurement of particles suspended in the spacecraft cabin is of great importance to verify that maximum allowable dust concentrations are not exceeded. This is primarily to protect astronaut health, but also has implications for dust-sensitive equipment. Recently, there is growing interest in low-cost commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) particle sensors by air quality researchers for their ability to map concentrations of airborne particulate matter in various terrestrial settings. In addition to low cost (< $2,000), the compact size and minimal weight of these sensors make them a potential choice for space missions. The detection mechanism for these aerosol sensors is typically measurement of light scattered by particles as they flow through a sensing volume. The amount of scattered light for detection depends on the particle size, shape, density, and refractive index of the particle material. Ideally, particle instruments should be calibrated with reference instruments for each different type of aerosol measurement. In this study we review multiple parameters that may impact the performance of state-of-the-art low-cost aerosol sensors. Environmental factors such as temperature, relative humidity, low ambient pressure, radiation and charge environment, partial-gravity and microgravity can affect the accuracy of particle measurements. Characteristics of the dust aerosols including particle size distribution, aerosol composition, refractive index, morphology and concentration levels also affect the measurement accuracy. Finally, we look at these parameters and issues with respect to an example COTS low-cost aerosol sensor. Instrument performance specifications are evaluated, and experiments are performed to measure real-time concentrations of Arizona Road Dust (a terrestrial reference test dust) and lunar dust simulant in a laboratory chamber. Overall, this study provides insight for evaluating spacecraft particulate monitoring technologies and raises questions to be answered before incorporating low-cost COTS sensors in future space missions to dusty destinations.


Marit Meyer, NASA - Glenn Research Center, US
Nima Afshar-Mohajer, Gradient Co., US
Eben Cross, QuantAQ Inc., US
Paul Mudgett, NASA - Johnson Space Center, US
ICES510: Planetary and Spacecraft Dust Properties and Mitigation Technologies
The 51st International Conference on Environmental Systems was held in Saint Paul, Minnesota, US, on 10 July 2022 through 14 July 2022.


Aerosol, PM2.5, PM10, Dust, Lunar Dust, Air quality