Long-duration spacecraft in low earth orbit such as the International Space Station (ISS) are highly susceptible to high-speed impacts by pieces of debris from past earth-orbiting missions. Among the hazards that accompany the penetration of a pressurized manned spacecraft are critical crack propagation in the module wall, crew hypoxia, and uncontrolled thrust due to air rushing out of the module wall hole. A Monte Carlo simulation tool was used to determine the effect of spacecraft wall construction on the survivability of ISS modules and crew following an orbital debris penetration. The simulation results indicate that enhanced shield wall designs (i.e., multi-wall systems with heavier inner bumpers) always lead to higher overall survivability of the station and crew due to an overwhelming decrease in likelihood of module penetration. The results of the simulations also indicate that changes in crew operations, equipment locations, and operation procedures can significantly reduce the likelihood of crew or station loss following an orbital debris penetration.
Space Debris – Springer Journals
Published: Sep 30, 2004
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