To design effective shielding for spacecraft and to evaluate the risk posed by orbital debris and meteoroids, we must be able to perform tests in the laboratory. HyperVelocity Impact testing has some extreme requirements and presents us with the following challenges:
- How do we launch projectiles at speeds seven times faster than the fastest bullet?
- How do we know how fast the projectile was traveling at the point of impact?
- How can we get pictures of an impact event that lasts only a few microseconds?
The testing capability of the HVIT, provided by the 3 light-gas gun ranges, allow for 100 micron aluminum balls up to a 10 mm aluminum balls, to be launched at velocities ranging from below 2 km/s to over 7 km/s. The diagnostics for the HVI testing consist mostly of flash x-ray systems and ultra-high speed cameras. The ranges are also equipped with light flash photo-detectors and laser intervalometers, all of which allow for the projectile velocity to be determined.
The ranges use Cordin camera systems, which are capable of framing rates of up to 2.25 million frames per second using standard Kodak IR film cassettes. The camera is a rotating mirror system which exposes each frame of a static circular roll of film for a few microseconds. The mirror is driven by a turbine powered by compressed nitrogen or helium.