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This paper begins with a summary of several key efforts by the US government to facilitate safe and efficient integration of air-traffic and space transportation activities in the aftermath of the Columbia accident. This paper describes impact tests sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to help improve the fidelity of computational models used to quantify the vulnerability of commercial transport aircraft to potential launch or reentry vehicle debris impacts. Specifically, the FAA and the US Department of Defense funded a small series of tests to investigate the influence of obliquity on the velocity required for compact metal fragments (steel spheres and cubes between 1 and 9 grams) to perforate thin sheets of aircraft grade aluminum. This paper summarizes the testing done to determine the minimum velocities required to perforate aircraft skin at zero and 75 degrees of obliquity. This paper also describes how these test results can be used to refine elements of the models used to quantify the vulnerability of typical commercial transport aircraft to potential debris impacts.
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Risk Committee, Range Safety Group, Range Commanders Council, Common Risk Criteria for National Test Ranges, RCC 321-10, White Sands, NM, 2010 (See paragraph 3.3.3)
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The vast majority of Columbia debris was too small or low density to produce any serious consequence upon impact with a modern aircraft (e.g. pieces “tile” used as part of the thermal protection system). Even so, the FAA recognized that the potential risks from launch and reentry debris warranted a series of mitigation efforts.
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- Impact Testing and Improvements in Aircraft Vulnerability Modeling for Range Safety
Ph.D., P.E. Paul D. Wilde
- Springer International Publishing
- Sequence number
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