Bullet explodes after hitting spacecraft shield in test

High-speed footage from ESA’s latest tests to create ultra-durable spacecraft shielding reveals the incredible moment a bullet travelling 4 miles per second bursts into a ‘cloud of fragments and vapor’ after piercing one of the candidate materials.

The space agency is working to develop shielding made from thin layers of metal that can protect its craft from cosmic debris.

In orbit, spacecraft are at risk of collisions with everything from tiny objects smaller than 1 centimeter to meteoroids from seasonal streams – and, the experts are working to ensure they’re equipped for whatever comes their way.

In the experiments, the researchers used a 2.8 mm-diameter aluminium bullet travelling at 7 km/s (4.3 miles/s). Spacecraft shielding often relies on a technique known as the Whipple Shield. This uses multiple layers separated by 10-30 centimeters.

‘We used a gas gun at Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics to test a novel material being considered for shielding spacecraft against space debris,’ said ESA researcher Benoit Bonvoisin.

‘Our project has been looking into various kinds of “fibre metal laminates” produced for us by GTM Structures, which are several thin metal layers bonded together with composite material.’

In the experiments, the researchers used a 2.8 mm-diameter aluminium bullet travelling at 7 km/s (4.3 miles/s).

Spacecraft shielding often relies on a technique known as the Whipple Shield.

 In orbit, spacecraft are at risk of collisions with everything from tiny objects smaller than 1 centimeter to meteoroids from seasonal streams ¿ and, the experts are working to ensure they¿re equipped for whatever comes their way

 In orbit, spacecraft are at risk of collisions with everything from tiny objects smaller than 1 centimeter to meteoroids from seasonal streams – and, the experts are working to ensure they’re equipped for whatever comes their way

 The incredible slow motion footage from the experiment shows how the aluminium bullet explodes into what ¿looks like a mushroom cloud turned sideways¿ upon contact with the material

 The incredible slow motion footage from the experiment shows how

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