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Meteorite Protection of Spacecrafts


The Development and Creation of Unified Shielding Construction for the Protection of Spacecraft from Meteoroid and Space Debris Impacts

Tech Area / Field

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

8 Project completed

Registration date

Completion date

Senior Project Manager
Rudneva V Ya

Leading Institute
Central Research Institute of Machine Building (TsNIIMash), Russia, Moscow reg., Korolev

Supporting institutes

  • NPO Energia, Russia, Moscow reg., Korolev\nResearch Production Center DIPROK, Russia, Moscow reg., Korolev


  • European Space Agency / European Space and Technology Center, The Netherlands, Noordwijk\nNational Aerospace Laboratory, Japan, Tokyo\nNASA Johnson Space Center/ Space Debris Laboratories and Technical Assistant for the Earth Science and Solar System Exploration Division, USA, TX, Houston

Project summary

Protection of spacecraft from meteoroid debris, and especially protection of the International Space Station (ISS), which is now at the stage of development, using the efforts of the world community, is one of the most challenging problems of manned space exploration.

The main threat comes from debris with particle mass in the range of ~1 gram and with relative velocity in the range of 10km/s. Only special shields can protect spacecraft from the impact of such particles. Different kinds of shields have to be used for different spacecraft and missions. In spite of considerable progress, made recently in this field, the shielding protection of some ISS modules does not satisfy design requirements and does not possess optimal technological suitability. So, uniform shielding constructions must be developed, to guarantee the high level of spacecraft protection from any meteoroid and debris environment.

Shield effectiveness is characterized by ballistic limit equation, which determines the dependence of impacting particle size on impact velocity. This equation is used to calculate the probability of no penetration (PNP), which is a design parameter for a given spacecraft’s mission duration. Several analytical codes for PNP calculations have been developed, the “BUMPER” code of NASA being the most widely used. However, the “BUMPER” code has certain disadvantages, connected with spacecraft shielding on the basis of deployable thin construction elements (radiators, solar panels and so on). Work has been done at TsNIImash and RSC “Energia” to create the basis for solving the above problems.

Rational shielding construction has to consist of two bumpers, the functions of which are different. The first is intended for the effective destruction of impacting particles and the spread of destruction products. The latter requires that the bumper shell must have a spatial structure, which increases the time of interaction. The second bumper has to be easily destroyed, so as to decrease the destruction products’ cloud velocity and to reduce the pressure on the protected wall. But these are the general rules, which have been established during investigations, and realizations of this idea can be varied. It can be stated that shielding design principles that combine the properties of universal application and optimal structure (from the point of view mass penalties, technological simplicity, ecology and so on), are not yet known. The complexity of the problem lays in the fact that the destruction mechanisms are different for various ranges of impact velocity (low, medium and high velocity ranges), so a special model has to be constructed in every velocity range to describe the impact interaction. Reliable experimental data have been obtained for impact velocities less than 7km/s.

Analysis of preliminary results, obtained at TsNIImash and at NASA, has shown that a database is in place for the creation of a unified two-bumper structure, capable of protecting any spacecraft.

The object of the Project is the development and construction of a unified shielding construction with high ballistic limit characteristics (BLC), for protection of spacecraft from meteoroids and space debris.

The Project includes the following stages:
– experimental and theoretical investigations of general rules governing the impact resistance of shield structures;
development of a universal engineering method for BLC calculation, based on experimentally determined parameters of a material’s impact resistance;
development of experimental methods for BLC determination for impact velocities over 7km/s;
development of optimal configurations of the first and the second bumpers and determination of the best suited materials for them;
development of a unified two-bumper structure;
development of a universal method for PNP calculation, based on calculated BLC and on analytical particle impact fragmentation on thin bumper equations;
creation of a universal shield sample and experimental verification of its impact resistance;
demonstration of the procedure of shield design and the calculation process of its certification for ISS-type objects.

Specialists from TsNIImash, RSC “Energia” and RPC “DIPROK”, involved in the project, constitute the highly experienced team, which was formed during the design of the ISS “Zvezda” module. A complete range of specialists, required for the solution of the project tasks, is presented in this team.


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