The Challenge | Design by Nature

Design an autonomous free-flyer to inspect a spacecraft for damage from Micro-Meteoroid and Orbital Debris (MMOD).

MMOD Detection

MMOD Detection is designed to detect MMOD impacts on space vehicles and assess the resulting damage

Tether has designed a two-part system to detect MMOD impacts and assess the resulting damage. In the first, layers of material with varying emissivity wave-lengths will be incorporated into the heat shielding technology that covers the large, low re-entry heat, areas of the space craft. With this technology, any MMOD impacts on these areas of the craft that present a hazard to the crew can be easily discovered using conventional imaging or scanning technology, with the varying wavelengths reflected by the different layers of material providing baseline details regarding the total depth of the impact. By reducing the time required to inspect the bulk of the aircraft, astronauts can spend more time inspecting the more important thermal protection edges.

In order to assist with this inspection, Tether has also developed a segmented, manoeuvrable armature that can be fitted with a specialised inspection system such as high definition cameras and sensors. A quick scan of the bulk of the craft will reveal any punctured material layers, and the armature can then be focused on the leading thermal protection surfaces immediately prior to re-entry.

Such a system would allow for the inspections to be carried out quickly by relatively un-trained personnel, without the need for sending the data to engineers on Earth for inspection. These elements open up the possibility for the inspections to be carried out by crew travelling out of immediate contact with the Earth, such as manned missions to Mars or other celestial bodies.

In designing our system, Tether used 3D modelling software Creo Parametrics to design the armature, and a MakerBot 3D printer to produce the prototype segments.


SpaceApps is a NASA incubator innovation program.