Ways to protect spacecraft from the hazard of colliding with a meteorite, moving at 20,000 to 30,000 miles-per-hour sought in tests carried out at the U.
Aerial view of Arnold Engineering Development Center complex.
Placing "BB-sized" ball in chamber.
Target placed in range.
Animation of gas gun firing.
Impacted target is examined.
Air force officer holding 4-inch thick aluminum block.
Drawing of Spacecraft in flight.
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Background: Ways to protect spacecraft from the hazard of colliding with a meteorite, moving at 20,000 to 30,000 miles-per-hour sought in tests carried out at the U.S. Air Force's Arnold Engineering Development Center near Tullahoma, Tennesse.
The meteorite is represented by the "BB-sized" projectile which is fired at speeds up to 17,000 miles-per-hour against targets such as this one which represents the outer surface of a spacecraft with a composition fiber lining.
A two-stage gas gun is used to launch the projectile down a 100-foot-long range. A power charge compresses hydrogen gas which is then ignited to fire the one-eighth-inch aluminum ball at speeds six times greater than a high velocity rifle bullet.
Fiberglass and metallic wools have been used as filler materials in double-wall targets. These materials actually erode, or reduce the size of the projectiles as it passes through.
In another test, a one-inch diameter steel sphere was fired at a ??? thick aluminum block at a speed of more than 11,000 miles-per-hour. The heat generated by the impact completely melted or vaporized the ball.
These tests and others like them are important steps in insuring the safety of future spacecraft and their crews.