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D.E. Austin, T.J. Ahrens, J.L. Beauchamp (California Institute of Technology)
We have developed and tested a small impact-ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometer for analysis of cosmic dust, suitable for use on deep space missions. This mass spectrometer, named Dustbuster, incorporates a large target area and a reflectron, simultaneously optimizing mass resolution, sensitivity, and collection efficiency. Dust particles hitting the 65-cm2 target plate are partially ionized. The resulting ions are accelerated through a modified reflectron that focuses the ions in space and time to produce high-resolution spectra. The instrument, shown below, measures 10 x 10 x 20 cm, has a mass of 500 g, and consumes little power.
Laser desorption ionization of metal and mineral samples (embedded in the impact plate) simulates particle impacts for instrument performance tests. Mass resolution in these experiments is near 200, permitting resolution of isotopes. The mass spectrometer can be combined with other instrument components to determine dust particle trajectories and sizes. This project was funded by NASA's Planetary Instrument Definition and Development Program.