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Investigation of MMOD Impact on STS-115 Shuttle Payload Bay Door RadiatorThe Orbiter radiator system consists of eight individual 4.6 m x 3.2 m panels located with four on each payload bay door. Forward panels #1 and #2 are 2.3 cm thick while the aft panels #3 and #4 have a smaller overall thickness of 1.3 cm. The honeycomb radiator panels consist of 0.028 cm thick Aluminum 2024-T81 facesheets and Al5056-H39 cores. The face-sheets are topped with 0.005 in. (0.127 mm) silver-Teflon tape. The radiators are located on the inside of the shuttle payload bay doors, which are closed during ascent and reentry, limiting damage to the on-orbit portion of the mission. Post-flight inspections at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) following the STS-115 mission revealed a large micrometeoroid/orbital debris (MMOD) impact near the hinge line on the #4 starboard payload bay door radiator panel. The features of this impact make it the largest ever recorded on an orbiter payload bay door radiator. The general location of the damage site and the adjacent radiator panels can be seen in Figure 2. Initial measurements of the defect indicated that the hole in the facesheet was 0.108 in. (2.74 mm) in diameter. Figure 3 shows an image of the front side damage. Subsequent observations revealed exit damage on the rear facesheet. Impact damage features on the rear facesheet included a 0.03 in. diameter hole (0.76 mm), a approx.0.05 in. tall bulge (approx.1.3 mm), and a larger approx.0.2 in. tall bulge (approx.5.1 mm) that exhibited a crack over 0.27 in. (6.8 mm) long. A large approx.1 in. (25 mm) diameter region of the honeycomb core was also damaged. Refer to Figure 4 for an image of the backside damage to the panel. No damage was found on thermal blankets or payload bay door structure under the radiator panel. Figure 5 shows the front facesheet with the thermal tape removed. Ultrasound examination indicated a maximum facesheet debond extent of approximately 1 in. (25 mm) from the entry hole. X-ray examinations revealed damage to an estimated 31 honeycomb cells with an extent of 0.85 in. x 1.1 in. (21.6 x 27.9 mm). Pieces of the radiator at and surrounding the impact site were recovered during the repair procedures at KSC. They included the thermal tape, front facesheet, honeycomb core, and rear facesheet. These articles were examined at JSC using a scanning electron microscope (SEM) with an energy dispersive x-ray spectrometer (EDS). Figure 6 shows SEM images of the entry hole in the facesheet. The asymmetric height of the lip may be attributed to projectile shape and impact angle. Numerous instances of a glass-fiber organic matrix composite were observed in the facesheet tape sample. The fibers were approximately 10 micrometers in diameter and variable lengths. EDS analysis indicated a composition of Mg, Ca, Al, Si, and O. Figures 7 and 8 present images of the fiber bundles, which were believed to be circuit board material based on similarity in fiber diameter, orientation, consistency, and composition. A test program was initiated in an attempt to simulate the observed damage to the radiator facesheet and honeycomb. Twelve test shots were performed using projectiles cut from a 1.6 mm thick fiberglass circuit board substrate panel. Results from test HITF07017, shown in figures 9 and 10, correlates with the observed impact features reasonably well. The test was performed at 4.14 km/sec with an impact angle of 45 degrees using a cylindrical projectile with a diameter and length of 1.25 mm. The fiberglass circuit board material had a density of 1.65 g/cu cm, giving a projectile mass of 2.53 mg. An analysis was performed using the Bumper code to estimate the probability of impact to the shuttle from a 1.25 mm diameter particle. Table 1 shows a 1.6% chance (impact odds = 1 in 62) of a 1.25 mm or larger MMOD impact on the radiators of the vehicle during a typical ISS mission. There is a 0.4% chance (impact odds = 1 in 260) that a 1.25 mm or larger MMOD particle would impact the RCC wing leading edge and nose cap during a typical miion. Figure 11 illustrates the vulnerable areas of the wing leading edge reinforced carbon-carbon (RCC), an area of the vehicle that is very sensitive to impact damage. The highlighted red, orange, yellow, and light green areas would be expected to experience critical damage if impacted by an OD particle such as the one that hit the RH4 radiator panel on STS-115.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
Hyde, J.
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Christiansen, E.
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Lear, D.
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Kerr, J.
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Lyons, F.
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Yasensky, J.
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Date Acquired
August 24, 2013
Publication Date
July 12, 2007
Publication Information
Publication: Orbital Debris Quarterly News, Vol. 11, No. 3
Subject Category
Spacecraft Design, Testing And Performance
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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