AstEx is a microgravity experiment selected to fly on ESA's 51st Microgravity Research Campaign in November 2009. The experiment will investigate the dynamics of regolith on asteroid surfaces. Despite their very low surface gravities, asteroids exhibit a number of different geological processes involving granular matter. Understanding the mechanical response of this granular material subject to external forces in microgravity conditions is vital to the design of a successful asteroid sub-surface sampling mechanism, and in the interpretation of the fascinating geology on an asteroid. The AstEx experiment uses a microgravity modified Taylor-Couette shear cell to investigate granular flow caused by shear forces under the conditions of parabolic flight microgravity. It is intended to determine how a steady state granular flow is achieved in microgravity conditions, and what effect prior shear history has on the timescales involved in initiating a steady state flow in a granular material. Presented are the technical details of the AstEx experimental design with particular emphasis on how the team have designed the equipment specifically for the parabolic flight microgravity environment
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