HVIT has developed multiple tools that can determine where possible risks are located on a spacecraft so that shielding solutions can be applied to those specific areas.
Meteoroid and orbital debris make traversing outer space very challenging, hence advanced shielding is needed to make sure that spacecraft (and astronauts) are safe and protected from possible hazards.
There's only one way to really know how a shield is really going to work – test it! Real-world experiments are used to develop mathematical algorithms that determine how much damage a shield can handle before it fails.
Want so see what happens when a piece of space junk hits a spacecraft at 4 miles per second? Of course you do!
Evidence of in-orbit meteoroid and orbital debris impacts taken from the ISS, Space Shuttle and other spacecraft.
Take a dive into our in-depth research and learn more about what it takes in order to exist in the realms of outer space.
Inspections of space-flown hardware clearly show evidence of numerous impacts by small, high-speed particles. Thousands of impacts were observed on the Space Shuttle orbiter fleet. Returned hardware from the International Space Station (ISS) as well as pictures of the exterior of ISS show evidence of thousands of these impacts. All spacecraft get impacts, but fortunately, most of these are small.
There are two types of impactors. The first type is the naturally-occurring "micrometeoroid" particle. The second type is the "orbital debris" particle. Collectively, these are known as "MMOD."
While they may seem like the same threat, they are not. The meteoroid particles orbit the Sun, can have higher impact speeds but are also generally less dense than orbital debris. Orbital debris particles orbit the Earth, are slower but generally have higher densities than meteoroid particles and can be very damaging. Also, because they differ in their orbit characteristics, they approach spacecraft from slightly different directions.
To improve crew safety and mission success by designing spacecraft structures that can withstand high-speed impacts of MMOD. These designs are used along with an array of advanced analytical tools to estimate crew and spacecraft MMOD risk. Knowing which spacecraft components drive the MMOD risk can then be used to identify mass-efficient shielding solutions to reduce MMOD risk to an acceptable level.
The NASA Hypervelocity Impact Technology (HVIT) team has analyzed many spacecraft and conducted thousands of hypervelocity impact tests since its inception almost four decades ago.
The HVIT team consists of a small group of dedicated engineers, scientists, technicians, and managers who are experts in the areas of materials science, impact physics, computer science, chemical engineering, structural mechanics, probability and project management.
Bumper MMOD Risk Analysis:
- Spacecraft modeling
- Failure criteria development
- Ballistic Limit Equations (BLEs) development and application
- Analysis and presentation of risk results
- Identification of residual risk "hot spots"
- Prioritization of risk drivers (for risk reduction)
- Characterization of primary threat directions for each spacecraft component
Ballistic Limit Equation Verification:
- Impact Test Plan development
- Test sample preparation/build-up
- Projectile material and size selection
- Conduct test readiness review
- Test monitoring (remote or in field)
- Test data collection
- Impact test conditions
- Post-test damage measurements
- Post-test photos of each layer
- Ballistic Limit Equation updates (if necessary, based on the test data)
- Full test report with updated BLEs
- Enhanced light-weight shielding
- Metallic-foam shielding
- MM risk assessments for near-Lunar, Mars, and near-Solar environments
- MMOD Impact Sensors:
- In-situ data collection
- Impactor Characteristics
- Approach direction
- Event date/time
- Mass estimate
- Self-sealing shield technology