Orbital debris protection
involves conducting hypervelocity impact measurements
to assess the risk presented by orbital debris to operating
spacecraft and developing new materials and new designs
to provide better protection from the environment with
less weight penalty. The data from this work provides
the link between the environment defined by the models
and the risk presented by that environment to operating
spacecraft and provides recommendations on design and
operations procedures to reduce the risk as required.
These data also help in the analysis and interpretation
of impact features on returned
spacecraft surfaces. The primary facility for this
research is the Hypervelocity
Impact Technology Facility (HIT-F) at NASA JSC in
Houston, although there are other facilities at JSC,
New Mexico, and various DoD laboratories.
Light-Gas gun at
the Hypervelocity Impact Technology Facility launches
projectiles at velocities high enough to simulate
orbital debris impacts.