Simulating Space Debris

The Arnold Engineering and Development Complex recently collaborated with NASA and other organizations to conduct simulated space collisions with a satellite mockup in a lab at Arnold AFB, Tenn. The hypervelocity destructive impact test—performed by NASA, the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, the Aerospace Corporation, and the University of Florida—is designed to help researchers study the effects of space collisions. The non-functional, full-scale DebriSat underwent testing in the complex’s “Range G” facility, where it was targeted by a light gas launcher capable of firing projectiles at speeds of more than 15,500 miles per hour, in a sealed chamber designed to simulate outer space. AEDC was the only facility capable of providing the level of kinetic energy needed for the test, said J.C. Liou, of the NASA Orbital Debris Program Office. By studying the pattern of the debris, researchers can glean more information about what would happen to a satellite impacted by space debris. AEDC also tested a “DebrisLV” simulated upper launch vehicle stage in the test range. (AEDC release.)