In the frame of many scientific space missions, a massive free-falling object is required to mark a geodesic trajectory, i.e., to follow inside a spacecraft an orbit that is determined only by the planetary gravity field. The achievement of high-purity geodesic trajectories sets tight design constraints on the reference sensor that hosts and controls the reference body. Among these, a mechanism may be required to cage the reference body during the spacecraft launch and to inject it into the geodesic trajectory once on-orbit. The separation of the body from the injection mechanism must be realized against the action of adhesion forces, and in the worst case this is performed dynamically, relying on the body's inertia through a quick retraction of the holding finger(s). Unfortunately, this manoeuvre may not avoid transferring some momentum to the body, which may affect or even jeopardize the subsequent spacecraft control if the residual velocity is too large. The transferred momentum measurement facility (TMMF) was developed to reproduce representative conditions of the in-flight dynamic injection and to measure the transferred momentum to the released test mass. In this paper, we describe the design and development of the TMMF together with the achieved measurement performance.
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