ESA / S. LAAGLAND / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY ESA / S. LAAGLAND / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
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Space debris impact shielding test. Close-up of a bullet impact produced during testing of a spacecraft shielding panel. A 7.5-millimetre-diameter aluminium bullet was shot with a high-performance light-gas gun at 7 kilometres per second at this 'stuffed Whipple shield exterior'. The multiple layers of the shield have dissipated the overall mass and energy of the debris so that it has harmlessly scorched the innermost 3 mm-thick aluminium wall. Space debris is a constant hazard to spacecraft and satellites. Even a small object can cause a great deal of damage at the high speeds of Earth orbits. This design is used to shield the Automated Transfer Vehicle and manned modules in the International Space Station (ISS). Testing was carried out for the European Space Agency (ESA)'s Space Environment and Effects section at the Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics, Ernst-Mach-Institut (EMI), Freiburg, Germany. Photographed in 2014.
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