Hybrid Shielding for Hypervelocity Impact of Orbital Debris on Unmanned Spacecraft

Kayleigh Fowler, Filipe Teixeira-Dias

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The passive shielding of space craft structures is critical due to the increase in demand for lightweight protection, which is required to counter the damaging effects of micro-meteoroid orbital debris (MMOD) on unmanned spacecraft, which have steeply increased in recent years. Research on hypervelocity impact (HVI) led to the development of shield configurations such as the conventional Whipple shield, which consists of two plates separated by a stand-off distance to allow for the fragmentation and dispersion of the debris from the impact. Variations in the Whipple shield have been proposed, where additional layers are included for increased energy dissipation efficiency. In this work, the authors develop, validate and test a numerical model of an orthogonally loaded hybrid Whipple shield, incorporating an aluminium honeycomb core, orientated with hexagonal tubes perpendicular to the direction of proposed debris travel, to mitigate the well-known channelling effect. The debris threat is an A2024-T3 projectile, impacting the structure at a velocity of 6.5 km/s. The proposed model is validated with experimental observations of the debris spread at half-angle and the efficiency of the proposed topology is assessed against a conventional two-plate A2024-T3 shield. The honeycomb core cell density, its position relative to the point of impact, the thickness of the honeycomb shell, and the material of the honeycomb are thoroughly analysed. A hybrid honeycomb structure concept is proposed, which provides a highly efficient alternative to a standard Whipple shield design, without significantly compromising the weight of the structure. The obtained results clearly show that the hybrid Whipple shield exhibits significantly increased the kinetic energy dissipation of the debris from the impactor and shield front plate, with an increase in the dissipated kinetic energy that can reach 86.8% relative to the conventional shield. View Full-Text
Original languageEnglish
Article number7071
Number of pages19
JournalApplied Sciences
Issue number14
Early online date13 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Hypervelocity impact
  • Whipple shield
  • Honeycomb
  • Passive shielding
  • Micro-meteoroid and orbital debris (MMOD)
  • Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH)
  • Finite-element analysis
  • LSDyna


Dive into the research topics of 'Hybrid Shielding for Hypervelocity Impact of Orbital Debris on Unmanned Spacecraft'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this