Hypervelocity Impact of a Pressurized Vessel: Comparison of Ballistic Limit Equation Predictions with Test Data and Rupture Limit Equation Development


Most spacecraft have at least one pressurized vessel on board. For robotic spacecraft, it is usually a liquid propellant tank. One of the design considerations of such spacecraft is the possible damage that might occur in the event of an on-orbit impact by a micro-meteoroid or orbital debris (MMOD) particle. While considerable effort has been expended in the study of the response of non-pressurized spacecraft components to these kinds of impacts, relatively few studies have been conducted on the pressurized elements of such spacecraft. This paper presents the results of a study performed to address the following aspects of this problem: how well current ballistic limit equations predict impact-induced perforation damage that might occur in pressurized spacecraft components such as tanks; and, the development of data-driven rupture limit equations that can be used to differentiate between impact conditions that would result in only a small hole or crack, from those that would cause catastrophic tank failure. This information would be useful to a design engineer who might be able to select tank materials to avoid catastrophic tank failure in the event of a perforating on-orbit MMOD particle impact. Tank perforation would typically result in a failed mission; and catastrophic tank failure might generate multiple pieces of new debris, increasing the risk to other spacecraft.


Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Ballistics; Debris; Liquid propellants; Orbits; Perforating; Propellants; Space debris; Spacecraft; Tanks (containers); Ballistic limit equations; Catastrophic failures; MMOD; Orbital debris; Pressurized vessels; Propellant tank; Spacecraft propulsion

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Article - Journal

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© 2015 Elsevier, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Oct 2015