Hazards of micrometeorite impact for interstellar travel

Oct 21, 2019
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The recently reported impact of a larger than expected micrometeorite on one of the mirror segments of the JWST (fortunately not serious) set me to thinking about the potential hazards from such impacts on interstellar travel.
Imagine the kinetic energy involved by being hit by something the size of a grain of sand (typical mass 0.004g) if the spaceship is travelling at say 10% of the speed of light (a minimum speed really for any realistic interstellar travel). Doing the ½mv^2 calculation gives a result of 1800MegaJoules (MJ). For comparison let's consider the kinetic energy of the shells fired from the largest ever gun fitted to a warship, the massive 18" guns of the Japanese battleship Yamato, which fired a 1460kg shell at a muzzle velocity of 780m/s. That works out at 444MJ, so our grain of sand hitting our hypothetical interstellar spaceship would have 4 times that energy, that's going to cause some serious damage! https://www.themeasureofthings.com/results.php... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/46_cm/45_Type_94_naval_gun
 
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Catastrophe

"There never was a good war, or a bad peace."
So space travel will naturally involve high speeds (distances are extremely large) and such impacts will be unavoidable, even in the rarities of space.

So what can we do about it? This is not my area of expertise, but I assume shielding is going to be massive and increase fuel requirements. Will these hazards inhibit space exploration and commercialisation?

Cat :)
 
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Catastrophe

"There never was a good war, or a bad peace."
All About Space, Issue 132, August 2022, contains an article on interstellar travel (unmanned) which suggests seeding particles 200 km (124 miles) ahead of the craft to intercept any large debris, as it approaches its destination.

During the flight, a lightweight beryllium shield is suggested to protect the spacecraft from the impact of dust particles.

Cat :)
 

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