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Vulnerability of satellite equipment to hypervelocity impacts

: Schäfer, F.; Putzar, R.; Lambert, M.

International Astronautical Federation:
59th International Astronautical Congress, IAC 2008. Vol.4 : Glasgow, Scotland, 29 September - 3 October 2008
Red Hook, NY: Curran, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-61567-160-1
International Astronautical Congress (IAC) <59, 2008, Glasgow>
Fraunhofer EMI ()

Satellite equipment is vulnerable to hypervelocity impacts. This is primarily because lightweight satellite structure walls offer a low penetration resistance against impact of particles and because the equipment inside the satellite is not designed to withstand impacts of fragments that are generated through a complete perforation of a satellite structure wall by a space debris particle.
To create a better understanding of the possible impact damages and the impact-induced failure modes of satellite equipment that is protected by typical satellite structure walls, a project was initiated by the European Space Agency's Space Research and Technology Centre (ESA-ESTEC) that was eventually contracted to a consortium led by Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics - Ernst-Mach-Institute (EMI). The equipment under investigation was fuel and heat pipes, pressure vessels, harnesses, electronics boxes, and batteries. To simulate realistic accommodation, all equipment was placed behind a representative honeycomb sandwich panel satellite structure wall. In most tests, the equipment was operated during impact.
This paper describes the test campaign, the results of the hypervelocity impact tests, and the generated damages as well as the observed failure modes of the equipment. The findings of this study may provide hints or explanations for unresolved malfunctions or failures observed by satellite operators on current missions.