An exit hole through Kevlar–Nextel fabric after hypervelocity testing of the multilayer shielding for ESA’s ATV space freighter, simulating an impact by space debris. The good news is that testing confirms the spacecraft’s pressure shell would survive such a collision intact. Testing was carried out for ESA’s Space Environment and Effects section at the Fraunhofer Ernst Mach Institut for High-Speed Dynamics in Brühl, Germamy, using a high-performance light-gas gun. A 7.5 mm-diameter aluminium bullet was shot at 7 km/s towards the same ‘stuffed Whipple shield’ design used to protect the ATV and the other International Space Station manned modules. This represents the upper end of the size of debris the shield is designed to cope with. Multiple layers give greater protection than a single thick aluminium layer. The debris begins by piercing a blanket of multilayer insulation, followed by a 1 mm-thick aluminium ‘bumper shield’. This impact makes the solid object break apart into a cloud of fragments and vapour, which becomes easier for the following layers to capture or deflect. Next comes the layer of stuffing seen in this main photo, a weave of lightweight Kevlar and Nextel fabric, which further slows the incoming debris. The stuffing fabric and a surrounding sheet
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