Role of collisions in erosion of regolith during a lunar landing
The supersonic gas plume of a landing rocket entrains lunar regolith, which is the layer of loose solids covering the lunar surface. This ejection is problematic due to scouring and dust impregnation of surrounding hardware, reduction in visibility for the crew, and spoofing of the landing sensors. To date, model predictions of erosion and ejection dynamics have been based largely on single-trajectory models in which the role of interparticle collisions is ignored. In the present work, the parameters affecting the erosion rate of monodisperse solids are investigated using the discrete element method (DEM). The drag and lift forces exerted by the rocket exhaust are incorporated via one-way coupling. The results demonstrate that interparticle collisions are frequent in the region immediately above the regolith surface; as many as 20% of particles are engaged in a collision at a given time. These collisions play an important role both in the erosion dynamics and in the final trajectories of particles. In addition, a direct assessment of the influence of collisions on the erosion rate is accomplished via a comparison between a “collisionless” DEM model and the original DEM model. This comparison shows that the erosion dynamics change drastically when collisions are considered and that the erosion rate is dependent on the collision parameters (coefficient of restitution and coefficient of friction). Physical explanations for these trends are provided.
Keywords: erosion, regolith, lunar landing