Modified granular impact force laws for the OSIRIS-REx touchdown on the surface of asteroid (101955) Bennu
The OSIRIS-REx mission collected a sample from the surface of the asteroid (101955) Bennu in 2020 October. Here, we study the impact of the OSIRIS-REx Touch-and-Go Sampling Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) interacting with the surface of an asteroid in the framework of granular physics. Traditional approaches to estimating the penetration depth of a projectile into a granular medium include force laws and scaling relationships formulated from laboratory experiments in terrestrial-gravity conditions. However, it is unclear that these formulations extend to the OSIRIS-REx scenario of a 1300-kg spacecraft interacting with regolith in a microgravity environment. We studied the TAGSAM interaction with Bennu through numerical simulations using two collisional codes, PKDGRAV and GDC-I. We validated their accuracy by reproducing the results of laboratory impact experiments in terrestrial gravity. We then performed TAGSAM penetration simulations varying the following geotechnical properties of the regolith: packing fraction (P), bulk density, inter-particle cohesion (σc), and angle of friction (ϕ). We find that the outcome of a spacecraft-regolith impact has a non-linear dependence on packing fraction. Closely packed regolith (P ≳ 0.6) can effectively resist the penetration of TAGSAM if ϕ ≳ 28° and/or σc ≳ 50 Pa. For loosely packed regolith (P ≲ 0.5), the penetration depth is governed by a drag force that scales with impact velocity to the 4/3 power, consistent with energy conservation. We discuss the importance of low-speed impact studies for predicting and interpreting spacecraft-surface interactions. We show that these low-energy events also provide a framework for interpreting the burial depths of large boulders in asteroidal regolith.