The Threat of Space Debris
I perform parallelized high-performance computer simulations of simplified models of cubeSats (small cube-shaped satellites) and of standardized lab experiments where an accelerated sphere hits a thin target plate.
Numerical investigations of this kind using many millions of particles are important to understand the physics of impact debris formation upon hypervelocity impact. Also, these investigations can be used for damage analysis of satellite structures after collisions with hypervelocity debris fragments.
Method Development for Hypervelocity Impact: The Discrete Element Method (DEM)
In a recent feature publication in the Journal Materials we have applied for the first time the Discrete Element Method for the simulation of hypervelocity impact phenomena, i.e. for velocities well beyond 5 km/s. In this project with the German Aeronautics and Space Research Center (DLR), we develop a realistic physical model for describing hypervelocity impact fragmentation of satellite structures.
This is of utter importance as the space debris of former space missions in the lower earth orbit (LEO) poses a real threat to satellites in operation today. Based on realistic physical modeling of material behavior upon impact, our long-term goal is the prediction of the likelihood of debris collisions with satellites in LEO.