Electric field instruments carried by spacecraft (SC) are complementary to dedicated dust detectors by registering transient voltage perturbations caused by impact-generated plasma. The signal waveform contains information about the interaction between the impact-generated plasma cloud and the elements of SC-antenna system. The variability of antenna signals from dust impacts has not yet been systematically characterized. A set of laboratory measurements are performed to characterize signal variations in response to SC parameters (bias voltage and antenna configuration) and impactor parameters (impact speed and composition). The measurements demonstrate that dipole antenna configurations are sensitive to dust impacts and that the detected signals vary with impact location. When dust impacts occur at low speeds, the antennas typically register smaller amplitudes and less characteristic impact signal shapes. In this case, impact event identification may be more challenging due to lower signal-to-noise ratios and/or more variable waveforms shapes, indicating the compound nature of nonfully developed impact-generated plasmas. To investigate possible variations in the impacting materials, the measurements are carried out using two dust samples with different mass densities: iron and aluminum. No significant variations of the measured waveform or plasma parameters obtained from data analysis are observed between the two materials used.
March 30, 2023