Tomsk State University scientists have developed a protection of spacecraft from space debris


The participants of the project to develop the protection of the spacecraft "Phobos-Grunt" Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences AV Gerasimov and Doctor of Technical Sciences UF Khristenko kept all the prototypes of the vehicle security with traces of bullet holes.

A group of scientists Institute of Applied Mathematics and Mechanics, Tomsk State University (TSU Institute of Applied Mathematics and Mechanics) is very closely followed the launch of the "Phobos-Soil" in space, because they worked for almost a year over how to protect the unit from debris.

The unit "Phobos-Grunt" was to fly to the moons of Mars — Phobos — in order to bring a soil sample to Earth. The aim of the project was to determine the origin and evolution of Phobos, and how does this compare with the stories of Mars and throughout the solar system. "Phobos-Grunt" was launched with the "Baikonur" on November 9, but after separation from the launch vehicle in it with the engine, which should bring it to a high parking orbit. As a consequence, the unit remains in near-Earth space.

"We are very proud that participated in such a large operation. But our guilt in fault "Phobos" is not, — Says Alexander Gerasimov, Head of the research group, Department Head, Institute of Applied Mathematics and Mechanics. — Why does the device not reached? There is the upper stage, which propels the machine to escape velocity. And this unit does not turn on, apparently, something went wrong with the software. And the system works, tanks are filled, the engines even have maintained the unit on the right orbit. "

Tomic research on the "Phobos-Grunt ‘were testing a sort of" armor "for the spacecraft. Back in 1947, the American scientist Whipple advanced the theory that before the spacecraft can be clamped thin plate. Then small pieces of debris flying up to it, start to break up into a cloud of smaller components. In the future, it is atomized cloud and the surface of the unit remains intact. But in the case of the space unit is weight limitations: it can not be protected too thick and heavy shield, so scientists had to come up with alternatives.


During the experiments, Tomsk scientists have tried various options for protecting the body spacecraft, combining solid and mesh plate.

"We looked at several types of protection, one of them — play a record from the grid, because it is less by weight, to the same wire as it cuts the particle, destroying it, — Explains Alexander Gerasimov. — The customer asked to learn how to act on the "armor" is very small particles — just half a millimeter in diameter. After all, if flying splinter the size of a fist — that we can not do anything, our defense is designed for small fragments ".

Who flies around the Earth a huge amount of debris, spacecraft parts, steps, boosters. Moreover, the large particles — up to 10 centimeters — still tracked by radar, they can be fixed. But around 100,000 fragments less than a centimeter in diameter. If such a "grain of sand" is flying at a speed of about 8 kilometers per second, it has a tremendous kinetic energy and can flash a ship through.

Tracking such debris is difficult, moreover, they become more and more Americans recently conducted satellite interception missiles, the Chinese also blew his companions, and all the debris, of course, remain in near-Earth space. The most dire consequences — if the fragment strikes the fuel tank while the spacecraft becomes useless.

"Our plant for the production of space velocities in the laboratory was not designed for throwing such small fragments, so we had to create a new device to cut off the pallet carrying the hammer to flying only one small ball and did not fly accompanying elements, — Describes Gerasimov know-how of Tomsk. — Sometimes it happens that a particle of a certain mass at a speed of one kilometer per second does not break defense, at a rate of 2 to 3 km — punches, and after three — again, does not break, because the particle itself begins to melt and evaporate. Therefore, we were interested in speed from 2 to 3.5 kilometers per second ".

In operation, the different parameters varied scientists: thickness grids and plates, the distance between them, weight, durability, the approach angle of the particles, and much more speed. In the end, came to the conclusion that diversity mesh work more efficiently. Tomich and have come up with yet another improved version of the defense, which is very interested customers, but to apply it to the "Phobos-Grunt" did not have time. However, this is not the last job with the Institute of Applied Mathematics and Mechanics "NPO. Lavochkin, "so that the know-how is unlikely to remain idle.

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