One of the main functions of the Hypervelocity Impact Technology Facility is the development of advanced shielding concepts to protect spacecraft on orbit. Much of our shield development activities have been in support of the International Space Station (ISS), which will be covered with meteoroid and orbital debris shields.
The HVIT has been responsible for developing many of the advanced shielding concepts that will be used on the ISS. The goal is always to develop a shield that is effective, while being lightweight. Spacecraft shield designers must work carefully to produce shielding solutions which are within the allocated mass, volume, and cost budgets of the spacecraft.
Side view of an impacted multi-shock shield with Nextel bumpers and a Kevlar rearwall
These are some basic concepts in spacecraft shield design, illustrated by example.
Some materials have better shielding characteristics than others. These are the most popular HVIT shielding materials. Combinations of these materials are used to construct shielding solutions.
There is no single method to designing and developing spacecraft shields. Most shield innovations are developed using a "let's see how well this works" approach, coupled with some intensive HVI testing and analysis.