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Debris concern: 50 impact tests at 5 km / s to test the Gaganyaan crew module


Bengaluru: Concerns about protecting payloads against orbital debris and micro-meteoroids are not strange to any space agency, but are amplified when humans are involved. And the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is preparing for the same with the Gaganyaan crew module that will take astronauts into space.
To test the module’s material against what the space agency calls MMOD (Micro-Meteoroid and Orbital Debris), it plans to conduct at least 50 hypervelocity crash tests that evaluate critical components of the crew module against MMOD impact.
ISRO’s Human Space Flight Center (HSFC) has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory (TBRL) of the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), which has the only test facility in India. that reaches a speed of 5,000 meters / second.
Emphasizing the importance of testing for the safety of astronauts, Unnikrishnan Nair, director of HSFC, said that the threat of impact from space debris due to an exponential increase in MMOD around Earth in the last 60 years of space exploration has multiplied.
DRDO installation
“Orbital debris moves at such high speeds that the impact of even a flake of paint can cause significant damage to the crew module in the absence of adequate shielding,” Nair said in a video conference.
A two-stage light gas gun facility at TBRL in Chandigarh, the only test facility that can achieve the required speed, will be used to conduct the hypervelocity impact studies. “Some feasibility tests have already been conducted on fictitious targets to establish internal ballistic parameters and high-speed diagnostics to meet the strict deadlines of the human space mission,” said the DRDO.
DRDO coordinator for the Gaganyaan mission, Tapan Khilariwal, confirmed that at least 50 hypervelocity crash tests are planned at the MoU to assess critical components of the crew module.
Space junk
The concerns of an impact are not unfounded, as the recent collision of an ISS (International Space Station) robotic arm with a piece of space debris reminds us.
According to a recent dataset released by astronomer Jonathan McDowell’s General Catalog of Artificial Space Objects, which is considered the most comprehensive catalog of satellites, spacecraft, debris, space organizations, and launches, at least 23,000 of the more than 50,000 objects space. ‘They have been in orbit since 1958.
And, if the plans of various space agencies and private companies are any indication, the growing number of space missions will only add to this number, faster than ever in the history of space exploration.

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