The Small Expendable Deployer System (SEDS) was designed to deploy an endmass at the end of a 20-km-long tether which acts as an upper stage rocket, and the threats from the meteoroid and orbital debris (M/OD) particle environments on SEDS components are important issues for the safety and success of any SEDS mission. However, the possibility of severing the tether due to M/OD particle impacts is an even more serious concern, since the SEDS tether has a relatively large exposed area to the M/OD environments although its diameter is quite small. The threats from the M/OD environments became a very important issue for the third SEDS mission, since the project office proposed using the shuttle orbiter as a launch platform instead of the second stage of a Delta II expendable rocket, which was used for the first two SEDS missions. A series of hyper-velocity impact tests were performed at the Johnson Space Center and Arnold Engineering Development Center to help determine the critical particle sizes required to sever the tether. The computer hydrodynamic code or hydrocode called CTH, developed by the Sandia National Laboratories, was also used to simulate the damage on the SEDS tether caused by both the orbital debris and test particle impacts. The CTH hydrocode simulation results provided the much needed information to help determine the critical particle sizes required to sever the tether. The M/OD particle sizes required to sever the tether were estimated to be less than 0.1 cm in diameter from these studies, and these size particles are more abundant in low-Earth orbit than larger size particles. Finally, the authors performed the M/OD damage analyses for the three SEDS missions; i.e., SEDS-1, -2, and -3 missions, by using the information obtained from the hypervelocity impact test and hydrocode simulations results.
Space Sciences (General)