Euclid preparation. XXIX. Water ice in spacecraft Part I: the physics of ice formation and contamination

Euclid Collaboration, A. Amara, S. Nadathur

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Molecular contamination is a well-known problem in space flight. Water is the most common contaminant and alters numerous properties of a cryogenic optical system. Too much ice means that Euclid's calibration requirements and science goals cannot be met. Euclid must then be thermally decontaminated, a long and risky process. We need to understand how iced optics affect the data and when a decontamination is required. This is essential to build adequate calibration and survey plans, yet a comprehensive analysis in the context of an astrophysical space survey has not been done before. In this paper we look at other spacecraft with well-documented outgassing records, and we review the formation of thin ice films. A mix of amorphous and crystalline ices is expected for Euclid. Their surface topography depends on the competing energetic needs of the substrate-water and the water-water interfaces, and is hard to predict with current theories. We illustrate that with scanning-tunnelling and atomic-force microscope images. Industrial tools exist to estimate contamination, and we must understand their uncertainties. We find considerable knowledge errors on the diffusion and sublimation coefficients, limiting the accuracy of these tools. We developed a water transport model to compute contamination rates in Euclid, and find general agreement with industry estimates. Tests of the Euclid flight hardware in space simulators did not pick up contamination signals; our in-flight calibrations observations will be much more sensitive. We must understand the link between the amount of ice on the optics and its effect on Euclid's data. Little research is available about this link, possibly because other spacecraft can decontaminate easily, quenching the need for a deeper understanding. In our second paper we quantify the various effects of iced optics on spectrophotometric data.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberA142
Number of pages34
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Issue numberJuly 2023
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jul 2023


  • space vehicles
  • space vehicles: instruments
  • telescopes
  • molecular processes
  • solid state: volatile

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