Hypervelocity Impact Testing

Stages of a hypervelocity protective shield test showing the test projectile and shield just before impact, the shield 40 microseconds after impact, and a comparison of the size of the projectile to the size of the impact. Image Credit: NASA

Proving Materials and Structures for Safety in Space

UDRI performs hypervelocity impact testing on materials and structures for NASA systems to see how these materials will endure impact from space dust and debris traveling at speeds in excess of 20,000 miles per hour.

According to NASA there are about 100,000,000 fragments of space junk larger than 0.04 inches travelling around Earth. Any of these fragments can significantly damage a spacecraft due to their incredible speeds. The average speed of space junk is roughly 6 miles per second, but can reach up to 10 miles per second. Besides space junk, micrometeoroids travel an average of 14 miles per second but can reach speeds of up to 45 miles per second.

Impacts from space junk and micrometeoroids pose substantial risk to space vehicles, so much so that an entire science is devoted to accessing the potential risk to spacecraft by micrometeoroids and orbital debris. Hypervelocity impact testing is an ongoing science because the quantity of orbital debris around Earth is constantly increasing.

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Top: Stages of a hypervelocity protective shield test showing the test projectile and shield just before impact, the shield 40 microseconds after impact, and a comparison of the size of the projectile to the size of the impact. Image Credit: NASA

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