Comprehensive characterization of the aerothermomechanical response of space debris to atmospheric entry plasmas

Project Details


Space debris, that is, all man-made objects in Earth's orbit which are non-functional, represents the trace of sixty years of space activities. Self-sustained growth, promoted by collisions among fragments, and impact with operating satellites can hinder future access to space. The Design for Demise (D4D) strategy proposes to conceive a space object for the safe end-of-life disposal through a destructive atmospheric re-entry. Exploiting the heating, due to friction with air, D4D aims at breaking up and completely destroying the space object. Experience, however, demonstrates that several components, made of titanium, steel and silicate materials, can survive the re-entry almost intact, thus representing risk on ground.

To safely implement the D4D strategy, accurate computational models are required for the prediction of the spacecraft thermal degradation. In turn, these models require empirical data for validation. This research contributes to the advancement of models and experiments to implement a global strategy for space debris mitigation. The project is articulated in four parts: 1) development of models for the material degradation, 2) application of simulation tools to the ground test environment, 3) experimental characterization through plasma wind tunnel tests and micro-scale analysis, 4) uncertainty quantification and model validation. As an outcome, experimental test-cases will be proposed as validation benchmark to the scientific community.
Effective start/end date1/01/1931/12/22



Flemish discipline codes

  • Atmospheric physics