Jared Leidich

the Cosmic Dust Reflectron for Isotopic Analysis (CRIA)

The Project:


CRIA Project Summary [1]

From the CRIA project summary [1]:

The study of cosmic dust has become of increasing interest in the last decade. NASA and the European Space Agency have put forth a multitude of spacecraft to explore the inner and outer solar system, with a top-level goal of exploring the origins of the solar system. The Cassini, Ulysses, and Stardust missions have all contributed significantly to this goal by carrying instruments dedicated to the study of cosmic dust flux and composition. However, a need still exists for a low-cost instrument with low mass and low power draw that can measure the composition and flux of dust particles in the space environment. This instrument should be easy to fabricate at relatively low-costs and be a suitable, lowimpact option for flights of opportunity.

Cosmic dust particles are important mosaic pieces in the understanding of the evolution of our solar system and galaxy. Spanning a range of sizes from a few tenths of a millimeter to molecular lengths, cosmic dust permeates space, from diffuse interstellar dust, to denser clouds, nebula, and planetary rings. The elemental composition of cosmic dust is characteristic to the time and place of its formation, and/or carries the signatures of the evolution of matter in various environments. Analysis of cosmic dust yields information on both our own Solar System, as well as on other stars elsewhere in our Galaxy.

The Cosmic dust Reflectron for Isotopic Analysis (CRIA), a time-of-flight (TOF) mass spectrometer, is capable of providing in situ measurements of the mass composition of spaceborne dust. The design concept of CRIA is inherited from the laboratory prototype Large Area Mass Analyzer (LAMA)1. The large target area and high mass resolution of LAMA makes it capable of measuring the mass composition of low flux dust. LAMA expands upon the design of previous TOF mass spectrometers by using a simple electrode geometry; this uniquely creates a parabolic electric field to focus ions for detection. Previous TOF mass spectrometers have utilized parabolic targets, which are costly to manufacture and tend to have a lower mass resolution; other instruments have a target area that is too small to be effective outside of high flux regions. Table 1 compares LAMA and CRIA to previous in-situ mass spectrometers to measure cosmic dust. (CRIA Project Summary, 2007)[1]


1. CRIA Project Summary: http://sisko.colorado.edu/CRIA/FILES/CRIA_ProjectSummary_06232008.pdf

My Role:

In 2008 the project it was in a concept development phase. Mr. Leidich was hired through the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) to work under Dr. Zoltan Sternovsky to redisgn the existing prototype to prepare it for testing in the Heidelberg Dust Accelerator in Germany. The results of that testing and further development work will hopefully push the product towards a flight version. The redisgn included the design and fabrication of much of the main structure and pieces of the science instrument (specifically the pieces genarating a strong precision electric field).

The project went very well and was succesfully tested at the German dust accelarator producing promising results.