The Office of Science and Technology Policy created the Orbital Debris Interagency Working Group (ODIWG), including members of the DoD, NASA, USAF, and USSF to tackle the challenge of space debris. Whipple shields used by these groups have significant limitations. An improvement that saves cost, weight, fidelity of components, etc. would vastly benefit all parties. The ODIWG recognizes the need to improve current shielding technologies, which RAVIOLI aims to achieve. With $4,530,000,000 at a minimum estimated in damage due to space debris over the next 20 years, improving spacecraft shielding is a critical challenge.
RAVIOLI is a novel solution to spacecraft shielding that leverages the hypervelocity particle capturing capabilities of aerogels in combination with the impact resistance of Kevlar to capture and protect against multiple impacts from a wide range of small particles. Compared to Whipple shields, RAVIOLI offers the potential to capture fragmentation, absorb the energy of larger particles, and reduce Kevlar/Nextel layers, providing similar if not enhanced protection while reducing volume and weight.
RAVIOLI combines Kevlar and airloys in a novel layering scheme of gradient densities of airloys with Kevlar. Our design intent is for maximal versatility to create a material that can provide both protection and debris capture. CTH modeling and live impact testing performed at the HEMI HyFire lab showed that this design is capable of capturing projectiles traveling at 5.2 km/s. Next steps of our work will be to advance our novel design towards more operationally significant characteristics in order to augment existing Whipple shield designs. Compared to Whipple shields, RAVIOLI offers the potential to capture fragmentation, absorb the energy of larger particles, and reduce Kevlar/Nextel layers, providing similar if not enhanced protection while reducing volume and weight.