An Aluminum Plate After a 6,700 mph Collision With a Grain of Sand

Illustration for article titled An Aluminum Plate After a 6,700 mph Collision With a Grain of Sand

According to Gravity, space debris causes untold damage to spacecraft—and space agencies do indeed spend a lot of time testing materials they put into orbit. This image shows what happens when a sand grain-sized piece of aluminium oxide strikes aluminum sheet at hypervelocity. Ouch.


At high speeds, even a small mass can cause untold damage. So researchers at the European Space Agency test materials, like this sheet aluminum, by firing samples towards them at extremely high speeds. Satellites normally get bombard with space debris and meteoroids at speeds of over 21,600mph. Tests in ESA labs mimic those collisions by firing very small projectiles at hypervelocities, which are over 6,700 mph. For some context, the main hole in the image is 28x12 millimeters across. Eek. [ESA]

Image by ESA



I can understand that objects cant break a certain speed limit around the earth, otherwise they would be flung into space. But why does there seem to be a speed limit for things flying through our solar system? You never hear of an asteroid whizzing by at 500,000 mph. One would think that if an object could build up incredible speed if it started from far away.