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ATV Shielding Takes a Bullet To Show Space Station’s Stopping Power

ATV Shielding Takes a Bullet To Show Space Station’s Stopping Power

ATV's Kevlar-Nextel fabric can't stop a bullet-sized piece of orbital debris, but it can slow it down enough to protect the space tug's aluminum skin beneath. Credit: ESA photo
ATV's Kevlar-Nextel fabric can't stop a bullet-sized piece of orbital debris, but it can slow it down enough to protect the space tug's aluminum skin beneath. Credit: ESA photo

PARIS — The European Space Agency fired a 7.5-millimeter-diameter aluminum bullet traveling at 7 kilometers per second into a bulletproof-vest-type fabric resembling the outer skin of Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) to check for space-debris resistance.

The resulting damage, shown in a photo of the bullet’s exit hole ESA published June 24, illustrates the expected resistance of the ATV and other international space station modules. It also shows the power of a small piece of debris colliding with the space station at orbital velocity.

The 20-nation ESA is scheduled to launch the fifth and last of its ATV freighters to the space station in late July aboard a heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket. ATV carries water, fuel and other supplies to the station, and also is used as a tug to reboost the station’s orbit, which degrades over time under the effects of atmospheric drag.

 

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June 25, 2014


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