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Space Debris Impact on Spacecraft


Study of the Spacecraft Vital Elements Response to Space Debris Impact

Tech Area / Field

  • SAT-SAF/Space Safety/Space, Aircraft and Surface Transportation

8 Project completed

Registration date

Completion date

Senior Project Manager
Nietzold D

Leading Institute
VNIIEF, Russia, N. Novgorod reg., Sarov


  • National Aerospace Laboratory, Japan, Tokyo\nEuropean Space Agency / European Space and Technology Center, The Netherlands, Noordwijk\nDaimlerChrysler Aerospace, Germany, Bremen\nFraunhofer Institut Kurzzeitdynamik, Germany, Freiburg

Project summary


Perform mathematical modelling of multi-layered (with damper) spacecraft shield protection response to hypervelocity space debris impact.

Determine possible ways of the structure optimisation for mass and materials requirements.

Perform experimental hypervelocity impact testing of optimal shield.

Modify mathematical models according to obtained experimental data.

Work-out technical recommendations on spacecraft shielding against space debris.

Develop algorithm of assessment of spacecraft survivability in debris environment on Earth orbits.

Technical Approach:

Spacecraft shield against hypervelocity space debris consisting of the Whipple meteoroid bumper and special damping protective cover is to be considered. The protective cover must catch the secondary debris particles and weaken the spread pulse loading of protected object.

Experimental investigation will consist of:

- approx. 15 preliminary tests for adaptation of facilities and measurement methodology;
- approx. 10-15 tests aimed on testing and validation of codes for numerical simulation of the shielding structures behaviour at impact of hypervelocity SD particles.

Experimenting is to be performed at internal test sites of RFNC-VNIIEF on available installations:

- blast launching systems, capable to accelerate solid metallic particles (sphere, disk, thin-wall shell, flux of separate fragments) of 0.5-200 g to velocity 5-8 km/s;
- light gas guns, capable to accelerate solid particles of 1-10 g to velocity 6-7 km/s.

Available installations need adaptation: receiving vacuum chamber and vacuum channel for hyper-velocity particles transition coupled with system of low-velocity explosion products cut-off are to be developed and manufactured.

During the experiments are to be performed independently (after modification of available registration complexes):

- process' optical registration (high frame-rate photography);
- process' X-ray registration (multi-flash and multi-aspect X-rayography);
- registration of dynamic pressures, stresses and impulse by gages;
- registration of time of arrival by contact gages;
- post-test investigation of damage (craters, holes, etc.).

Developed at RFNC-VNIIEF 2-D and 3-D codes for numerical simulation of transient two-phase gas-dynamics and dynamics of elastic-viscous-plastic structures will be used after adaptation for mathematical modelling of impact.

Experiments are to be supported by 2D and 3D numerical simulations. Experimental results are to be used for testing of numerical codes.

Methodology of spacecraft survivability assessment will be based on experimental and numerical data on loss of working ability of spacecraft systems under consideration and logical scheme of the systems transaction considering probability of various loading scenarios and possible impact parameters.

Potential Role of Foreign Collaborators:

Clarify the most interesting range of impact parameters (mass and material of particles, impact angle and velocity).

Co-ordinate on technical conditions of experiments.

Perform joint testing of numerical codes.

Develop proposals on future joint work on design of spacecraft shielding against space debris and investigation of hyper-velocity impact phenomena focused on increasing of spacecraft survivability.


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