Protecting Earth-Orbiting Spacecraft Against Micro-Meteoroid/Orbital Debris Impact Damage Using Composite Structural Systems and Materials: An Overview


Spacecraft that are launched to operate in Earth orbit are susceptible to impacts by meteoroids and pieces of orbital debris (MMOD). The effect of a MMOD particle impact on a spacecraft depends on where the impact occurs, the size, composition, and speed of the impacting object, the function of the impacted system. In order to perform a risk analysis for a particular spacecraft under a specific mission profile, it is important to know whether or not the impacting particle (or its remnants) will exit the rear of an impacted spacecraft wall. A variety of different ballistic limit equations (BLEs) have been developed for many different types of structural wall configurations. BLEs can be used to optimize the design of spacecraft wall parameters so that the resulting configuration is able to withstand the anticipated variety of on-orbit high-speed impact scenarios. While the level of effort exerted in studying the response of metallic multi-wall systems to high speed particle impact is quite substantial, the extent of the effort to study composite material and composite structural systems under similar impact conditions has been much more limited. This paper presents an overview of the activities performed to assess the resiliency of composite structures and materials under high speed projectile impact. The activities reviewed will be those that have been aimed at increasing the level of protection afforded to spacecraft operating in the MMOD environment, and more specifically, on those activities performed to mitigate the mechanical and structural effects of an MMOD impact.


Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering


Humboldt Foundation

Keywords and Phrases

Honeycomb Sandwich Panel; Hypervelocity Impact; Satellite; Composite materials; Space debris

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


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© 2010 Elsevier, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Mar 2010