In the very early stages of planet formation, dust grains trapped in a disk around the young star gently collide with each other, sticking and growing into bigger aggregates. Similarly, particles in planetary rings collide at very low relative velocities and form aggregates leading to many an observed features of Saturn’s rings for example. To better understand these low-velocity collisions and the growth of aggregates, microgravity experiments observing multi-particles systems are required. In particular, collision data for µm to cm-sized particles will help closing the current gap in knowledge of how dust grows into km-sized bodies, as well as better our understanding of particle dynamics in planetary rings.

3utransparentQ-PACE (CubeSat Particle Aggregation and Collision Experiment) will observe a set of 0.1 mm to cm-sized particles colliding and growing under microgravity conditions. This 3U CubeSat will allow that inherits its format from the NanoRocks experiment currently on the International Space Station will allow for the observation of particle dynamical evolution and growth for an unprecedented duration in time of several years. The CubeSat is currently being developed with a target launch date of December 2017.