TSU will improve the protection of satellites

A group of scientists from the TSU Research Institute of Applied Mathematics and Mechanics has conducted a theoretical and experimental study of the interaction and methods of protecting elements of spacecraft from high-speed impactors. They have created methods and models to test the functional characteristics of new materials in an extreme environment under maximum load conditions.

Particles even of a small diameter (1–2 mm) pose a serious danger to the survivability of spacecraft. Moving at speeds above 5 km/s, they can penetrate the hull or disable the equipment.

- The theoretical part included the development of new algorithms and approaches for the numerical simulation of the interaction of micrometeoroids and particles of space debris with an obstacle - the body of a spacecraft or an artificial satellite, - says Sergey Pashkov, the project leader. - Despite the fact that the mass of these objects is extremely small, moving with cosmic velocities (in near-earth orbit, particles of space debris reach speeds of up to 16 km/s), they are able to penetrate the protective panels on the body of the spacecraft quite easily. To increase the survivability of spacecraft, new layered and composite materials are being created. Our task was to create effective ways to test them.

Scientists have developed numerical methods that help to test protective structures (grids and screens) and materials (aluminum, ceramics, and others), by varying the speed of the collision, the load on the barrier, and other parameters. The models of the deformation and destruction of materials help to carry out numerical experiments, which are much cheaper and faster than field tests. They are promising for creating an automated engineering calculation system that simulates an explosion, impact, or other situations of high-intensity impact on materials and structures.

- Under the direction of Yury Khristenko, a TSU Research Institute of Applied Mathematics and Mechanics scientist, a series of experiments with a unique light-gas ballistic gun, which allows accelerating particles to cosmic velocities, was carried out. The installation, which has few analogs not only in Russia but in the world, can throw various impactors at speeds of up to 8 kilometers per second, - explains Sergey Vladimirovich. - In the course of the experiment, the accuracy of theoretical models and numerical calculations was confirmed and new data were obtained on impactors on various obstacles, including illuminator windows and their protective coatings. This is important to preserve the transparency of portholes and optical instruments that are also exposed to micrometeoroids and cosmic dust.

Part of the design work in the course of the project implementation was carried out by students of the Faculty of Physics and Engineering, studying in the Mechanics of Deformable Solid Media area. Information obtained with the support of a grant of the Russian National Foundation will help create new lightweight and durable materials and structures for the protection of spacecraft.

One of the recent developments of scientists of the Research Institute of Applied Mathematics and Mechanics is an anti-meteor screen in the form of a corrugated steel mesh. The invention received a joint patent with the Lavochkin Scientific and Production Association (patent for invention number 2623782). Its efficiency turned out to be rather high in comparison with the existing analogs. The new approach was used in the manufacture of protective structures of the space observatory Spectrum-UV, which will be put into orbit in 2021.