Predicting the Rupture of Composite Plates Following a Hypervelocity Impact


Most spacecraft have at least one pressurized vessel on board. For robotic spacecraft, it is usually a liquid propellant tank. In some satellite or spacecraft designs, the fuel tank or some other pressurized vessel is necessarily exposed to the hazards of space, including the micro-meteoroid and orbital debris (MMOD) environment. Because of the potential of serious mission-Threatening damage that might result following an on-orbit MMOD impact, a primary design consideration of such spacecraft is the anticipation and mitigation of the possible damage that might occur in the event of such an impact. While considerable energy and effort has been expended in the study of the response of non-pressurized spacecraft components to MMOD impacts, technical and safety challenges have limited the number of tests that have been conducted on pressurized elements of such spacecraft. As a result, several investigators have taken to modelling pressurized vessels as flat plates under uniaxial or bi-Axial tensile loading conditions. This paper presents the development of a data-driven equation for initially stressed flat composite material plates that differentiates between impact conditions which, given a plate perforation, would result in only a hole or crack from those which would cause catastrophic plate failure / rupture. If this equation were subsequently shown to also model the rupture/no-rupture behavior of actual COPVs, then it could also be used to appropriately tailor the design parameters and/or operating conditions of a pressurized tank. Tank designs could be adjusted so that if that tank were to be struck and perforated by the impact of an MMOD particle, then only a hole would occur and additional sizable debris would not be created as a result of that impact.

Meeting Name

30th International Symposium on Ballistics, BALLISTICS 2017 (2017: Sept. 11-15, Long Beach, CA)


Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Ballistics; Debris; Fuel tanks; Liquid propellants; Space debris; Spacecraft; Spacecraft propulsion; Tanks (containers); Hypervelocity impacts; Initially stressed; Operating condition; Pressurized vessels; Robotic spacecrafts; Spacecraft components; Spacecraft design; Tensile loading condition; Orbits

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Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

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Publication Date

01 Sep 2017