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A history of meteoroid and orbital debris impacts on the Space Shuttle

Hyde, J. L. 1, Christiansen, E. L. 1, Bernhard, R. P. 1, Kerr, J. H. 1, Lear, D. M.1
Affiliation data not available1

Document details

Publishing year2001 PublisherESA Publishing typeConference Name of conference3rd European Conference on Space Debris
Pagesn/a Volume
H. Lacoste


This paper describes observations and analyses of meteoroid and debris impact damage on the Space Shuttle Orbiter. NASA's Space Transportation System Orbiter has been in service since 1981. The reusable nature of the orbiter necessitates post-flight inspection and repair of exterior thermal protection system surfaces. Since 1992, post flight inspections have included an assessment of meteoroid/debris impacts in selected areas of the vehicle. Hypervelocity impact sites are identified post-flight on the crew module windows, payload bay door radiators, payload bay door exterior insulation and wing leading edge surfaces and subjected to sample collection and analysis. One product of the analyses is determination of impactor source (meteoroid or orbital debris) by scanning electron microscope (SEM) energy dispersive X-ray analysis (EDXA) of residual impactor materials recovered from the impact site.