Business Unit Space

Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics, Ernst-Mach-Institut, EMI


The central topics of the business unit space are the development of protection technologies for space vehicles against impacts, the development of vulnerability assessment software tools, the development and operation of scientific instruments onboard satellites and research into novel concepts for the launch of small payloads to the upper atmosphere.

In order to improve the robustness of satellite systems and their components such as satellite equipment and solar panels against space debris and meteorite impacts, damage mechanisms are investigated and technological solutions are developed. The research conducted is based on impact experiments at hypervelocity, i.e. velocities larger than 2,000 m/s. With the aid of high-performance light gas gun accelerators velocities exceeding the low-earth orbital velocity of about 8,000 m/s can be reached for impactors with defined geometry. The experimental data obtained is used for the development of ballistic limit equations and is subsequently applied for own risk and vulnerability analyses. Novel accelerator concepts are currently under development at EMI. Such higher performing gun accelerators allow for more representative experimental simulation of impact phenomena onto satellite components under laboratory conditions.

Another research priority is the development and flight qualification of autonomous electronic sensor systems designed for the detection of impacts against satellites and manned space stations. Such instruments e. g. could be impact detectors or devices for collision warning.

Basic research is conducted in the field of investigation of the mechanical damage induced by hypervelocity impacts and secondary effects induced by the impact plasmas. This research is intended to support failure investigations of large solar panels on geostationary satellites.

A further field of research addresses planetary crater formation and includes the investigation of scaling effects for crater formation in geological materials upon meteorite impact.


Hypervelocity aboratory accelerators for velocities ranging from 2000 m/s - 10 000 m/s

Impact and shock wave effects Assessement, characterization and modeling of the related physical phenomena

Impact tests under high-vacuum conditions (< 10e-4 mbar)

Test facility for equipment shock and vibration tests

Imaging techniques for transient processes: High-speed photo and video recordings

Development of sensors and electronic applications for space applications

Software development for spacecraft impact risk and vulnerability analyses