This article is on the international collaboration called IMPACT. For the charitable organisation, see IMPACT (organisation). For the Irish trade union, see Irish Municipal, Public and Civil Trade Union. For the television show, see Impact Wrestling.
IMPACT (International Multi-user Plasma, Atmospheric and Cosmic dust Twin laboratory) is a successful merger of many different science communities that need similar instrumentation and resources. IMPACT is a merger of IMPF (International Microgravity Plasma Facility) and ICAPS (Interactions in Cosmic and Atmospheric Particle Systems), originally conceived as two separate experimental facilities, both with their own development history. In May 2002, the dedicated scientific advisory boards for the IMPF and ICPAS recommended the combination of the two experiments into one ESA research laboratory.
Both projects share hardware, space station accommodation and operations, and data processing and downloading functions in common. By consolidating these systems into a single laboratory significant reductions have been made to the overall project cost, by eliminating the duplication of expensive development, manufacturing, and qualification tasks.
- Complex plasmas (both RF and DC controlled) in the strongly coupled regime, when electrostatic forces between particles are much stronger than any thermal effects. This will allow the study of fluid behaviour, interface/boundary behaviour, phase changes, wave propagation etc.
- The behaviour of aerosol particles in a non-convective gas, and the microphysics of clouds.
- The phoretic effects on aerosol particles with and without phase transition of water respectively relevant for cloud formation and for the abatement of industrial effluents.
- The mutual interaction of dust particles and agglomerates having different velocity fields, with application to pre-planetary aggregation mechanisms.
- The morphological, mechanical, and optical properties of regoliths in microgravity.
- The light-scattering properties, both optical and morphological, of dust aggregates in the solar system.
Microgravity plays a fundamental role for achieving the desired scientific objectives: be it by significantly enhancing the resident time of particles within the experimental volume/plasma, by suppressing size-discrimination effects due to the absence of differential motion, by eliminating weight-induced aggregate compaction, or by getting rid of convection instabilities in the carrier gas.
The complexity of the IMPACT facility has led to several precursor instruments. These science precursors aim to demonstrate the feasibility of some of the proposed techniques and to serve the scientists. Although it is clear that these science precursors will not be able to answer all the scientific questions that the scientists have, it will already give them valuable information about some basic processes and will also help to define the scientific programme they want to perform on IMPACT.
Currently, two precursors, PK-4 (Plasmakristallexperiment 4), related to complex plasma physics, and IPE (ICAPS Precursor Experiment), related to atmospheric and cosmic dust physics, are under development.
IMPACT is envisioned to be launched in 2009.