window being inspected for orbital debris impacts.
important source of information about the debris environment
is the study of impact pits on surfaces that have been
exposed to space in Earth orbit. All spacecraft collide
with very small orbital debris particles and meteoroids;
consequently, spacecraft surfaces returned to Earth are
found to have many small craters resulting from hypervelocity
impacts. In most cases, these craters are too small to
have any effect on the operation of the spacecraft. However,
by examining them, important clues can be obtained on
the sources of orbital debris, and the rate that it is
changing. The Long
Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) was a bus-sized
spacecraft that was returned after ~5.7 years in low Earth
orbit. Over 20,000 impacts have been documented on LDEF,
approximately 1,000 of which have been chemically analyzed
in an attempt to determine the origin of the projectile.
Critical surfaces, such as the windows, on the Space
Shuttle are examined after every flight. Other surfaces
include those from the Solar Max satellite and the
Hubble Space Telescope.
from orbital debris on STS-007.
vertical stabilizer damage from orbital debris.