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Hypervelocity Impact Tests

To design effective shielding for spacecraft and to evaluate the risk posed by debris and meteoroids, we must be able to perform tests in the laboratory. Hypervelocity Impact testing has some extreme requirements. How do we launch projectiles at speeds more than seven times faster than the fastest bullet? How do we know how fast the projectile was traveling at impact? How can we get pictures of an impact event that lasts only a few microseconds - that's millionths of a second?

 
space  Light Gas Guns

Launching projectiles at velocities high enough to simulate orbital debris impacts requires some remarkable equipment called "two stage light gas guns." The technology that makes these guns work is in itself fascinating. Here's how it works.

 
space  Diagnostic Tools

We can measure the velocity of the impacting projectile in a hypervelocity impact test using several different techniques. And there are other tools we use to ensure a quality test.

 
space  High Speed Cameras

To get images of hypervelocity impact events, we use cameras that are capable of taking up to 2.5 million frames per second. You'd think that would take a lot of film, but these are no ordinary cameras.