Mater Sci Eng J | Volume 1, Issue 1 | Research Article | Open Access

Novel Computer Simulations Addressing the Impact Risks in Space from Orbiting Debris

Martin O Steinhauser1,2*

1Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics, Germany
2Department of Chemistry, University of Basel, Switzerland

*Correspondance to: Martin O Steinhauser 

Fulltext PDF


Since the launch of Sputnik I on October 4, 1957, which marks the beginning of space age almost exactly 60 years ago at the time of writing this article, human space activities have created an orbital debris environment that poses increasing impact risks to existing space systems such as satellites, manned space flight and robotic missions. In this editorial, I intend to briefly discuss novel mesh-free computer simulation methods that constitute a first crucial step towards evaluating the actual risks of impact in the orbital debris environment by implementing a physical-based model that allows for simulating realistic Hyper Velocity Impact (HVI) scenarios. The proposed simulation scheme is based on the Discrete Element Method (DEM) which has so far only been applied in the low velocity regime and thus constitutes the first application of this method to the simulation of impact events at hypervelocity speed beyond ~6 km/s. A quantitative computational analysis of debris clouds generated from HVI and a comprehensive parameter study of the proposed model are presented. Good agreement is found with corresponding HVI experiments at comparable striking velocities on a laboratory length scale when the impact conditions create shock pressures in the target and impact or many times greater than the material strength. The ultimate objective of this research work is to eventually apply the DEM for the complex simulation of spacecraft fragmentations resulting from collisions of space debris with spacecraft structures such as satellites.


Steinhauser MO. Novel Computer Simulations Addressing the Impact Risks in Space from Orbiting Debris. Mater Sci Eng J. 2017;1(1):1005.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter