ICAPS Precursor Experiment (IPE)
IPE is a microgravity experiment that addresses planetary science. Its goal is to understand the formation of planetesimals, or planet precursors, by studying dust particles and their agglomeration in conditions representative of pre-planetary conditions. It will also make it possible to study the light scattering behavior of proto-planetary dust aggregates.
Micron-sized particles will be injected into the experiment chamber and allowed to aggregate, for example by natural Brownian motion. The aggregates can then be pushed around into the field of view of powerful microscopes with the help of laser beams so that their shape and structure can be studied in detail. The light scatted off from the aggregated particles will be analyzed by a ring of polarimeters. This will produce reference measurements with which one can compare observations by astronomical telescopes of scattered light from dust in outer space.
The Phase B for this project was split into two parts. Phase B0 for IPE started in January 2007 and finished at the end of 2008. Phase B1 is to start in mid-2009.
IPE consists of vacuum chamber, an injection unit for the dust particles, a cleaning system.
IPE includes several diagnostic tools: a light-scattering unit consisting of 24 photodiodes/polarimeters, 2 overview cameras, a digital holographic microscope, a long distance microscope. IPE also includes an optical particle manipulation to move the particles and a confining trap to maintain the particles in the centre of the chamber.
Last update: 13 May 2009