Satellite Collision Modeling with Physics-Based Hydrocodes: Debris Generation Predictions of the Iridium-Cosmos Collision Event and Other Impact Events

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Satellite collision debris poses risks to existing space assets and future space missions. Predictive models of debris generated from these hypervelocity collisions are critical for developing accurate space situational awareness tools and effective mitigation strategies. Hypervelocity collisions involve complex phenomenon that spans several time- and length-scales. We have developed a satellite collision debris modeling approach consisting of a Lagrangian hydrocode enriched with smooth particle hydrodynamics (SPH), advanced material failure models, detailed satellite mesh models, and massively parallel computers. These computational studies enable us to investigate the influence of satellite center-of-mass (CM) overlap and orientation, relative velocity, and material composition on ... continued below

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Springer, H. K.; Miller, W. O.; Levatin, J. L.; Pertica, A. J. & Olivier, S. S. September 6, 2010.

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Satellite collision debris poses risks to existing space assets and future space missions. Predictive models of debris generated from these hypervelocity collisions are critical for developing accurate space situational awareness tools and effective mitigation strategies. Hypervelocity collisions involve complex phenomenon that spans several time- and length-scales. We have developed a satellite collision debris modeling approach consisting of a Lagrangian hydrocode enriched with smooth particle hydrodynamics (SPH), advanced material failure models, detailed satellite mesh models, and massively parallel computers. These computational studies enable us to investigate the influence of satellite center-of-mass (CM) overlap and orientation, relative velocity, and material composition on the size, velocity, and material type distributions of collision debris. We have applied our debris modeling capability to the recent Iridium 33-Cosmos 2251 collision event. While the relative velocity was well understood in this event, the degree of satellite CM overlap and orientation was ill-defined. In our simulations, we varied the collision CM overlap and orientation of the satellites from nearly maximum overlap to partial overlap on the outermost extents of the satellites (i.e, solar panels and gravity boom). As expected, we found that with increased satellite overlap, the overall debris cloud mass and momentum (transfer) increases, the average debris size decreases, and the debris velocity increases. The largest predicted debris can also provide insight into which satellite components were further removed from the impact location. A significant fraction of the momentum transfer is imparted to the smallest debris (< 1-5mm, dependent on mesh resolution), especially in large CM overlap simulations. While the inclusion of the smallest debris is critical to enforcing mass and momentum conservation in hydrocode simulations, there seems to be relatively little interest in their disposition. Based on comparing our results to observations, it is unlikely that the Iridium 33-Cosmos 2251 collision event was a large mass-overlap collision. We also performed separate simulations studying the debris generated by the collision of 5 and 10 cm spherical projectiles on the Iridium 33 satellite at closing velocities of 5, 10, and 15 km/s. It is important to understand the vulnerability of satellites to small debris threats, given their pervasiveness in orbit. These studies can also be merged with probabilistic conjunction analysis to better understand the risk to space assets. In these computational studies, we found that momentum transfer, kinetic energy losses due to dissipative mechanisms (e.g., fracture), fragment number, and fragment velocity increases with increasing velocity for a fixed projectile size. For a fixed velocity, we found that the smaller projectile size more efficiently transfers momentum to the satellite. This latter point has an important implication: Eight (spaced) 5 cm debris objects can impart more momentum to the satellite, and likely cause more damage, than a single 10 cm debris object at the same velocity. Further studies are required to assess the satellite damage induced by 1-5 cm sized debris objects, as well as multiple debris objects, in this velocity range.

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PDF-file: 13 pages; size: 0.4 Mbytes

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  • Presented at: AMOS Conference, Wailea, HI, United States, Sep 13 - Sep 17, 2010

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  • Report No.: LLNL-CONF-454151
  • Grant Number: W-7405-ENG-48
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 1022894
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc833125

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  • September 6, 2010

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • May 19, 2016, 3:16 p.m.

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  • May 31, 2016, 3:44 p.m.

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Springer, H. K.; Miller, W. O.; Levatin, J. L.; Pertica, A. J. & Olivier, S. S. Satellite Collision Modeling with Physics-Based Hydrocodes: Debris Generation Predictions of the Iridium-Cosmos Collision Event and Other Impact Events, article, September 6, 2010; Livermore, California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc833125/: accessed April 25, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.