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HyperVelocity Impact Technology

About Us

Light-Gas Gun

History and Experience

The HVIT was founded in 1980 with the objective to study the HyperVelocity impact (HVI) characteristics of spacecraft materials. Since its inception, the HVIT has performed and analyzed well over 10000 HyperVelocity impact experiments on spacecraft shields and materials. These experiments and the associated damage analysis, in combinations with computer simulations, have contributed to the development of shield ballistic limit equations used as the foundation for micrometeoroid and orbital debris threat assessments in support of numerous spacecraft programs.


The HVIT team is composed of a highly experienced and well trained staff. Their diverse and complementary skills, across many disciplines, allow for the lab to design and implement complex turn-key shielding solutions. The HVIT has scientists, engineers, and technicians who are experts in the areas of materials science, HyperVelocity impact physics, penetration mechanics, computer engineering, probability analysis, and structural mechanics.


The primary objective of the HVIT is to support space programs by researching and developing meteoroid and orbital debris impact protection systems for NASA and commercial spacecraft. The HVIT supports this initiative by utilizing the 2-stage light-gas gun ranges and associated diagnostics located at the NASA White Sands Test Facility (WSTF). For the post-test damage analysis, the HVIT also maintains state of the art analysis capabilities at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC).

The testing capability, provided by the 2-stage light-gas gun ranges, allows for projectiles from 100 micron up to a 1.0 cm in diameter to be launched at velocities ranging from below 2.0 km/s to over 7.0 km/s. The diagnostics for the HVI testing consist of flash x-ray systems and ultra-high speed cameras. The ranges are also equipped with flash photo-detectors and laser stations, which allow for the projectile velocity in integrity to be determined. The high speed camera systems are capable of frame rates of over 2 million frames per second.

The analysis support provided by the HVIT utilizes several analysis tools and techniques to measure and assess post-test damage of impacted spacecraft shield materials. In addition, the HVIT performs numerical and analytical simulations to predict impact response beyond experimental test conditions. The result of these efforts are the used to complete risk and damage assessments for spacecraft exposed to the meteoroid and orbital debris environments.