How much damage would a centimeter sized particle weighing a few grams do when it impacts a spaceship at orbital velocity? Let's say 30 km/s (Earth's rotation speed around the Sun). Such a particle certainly has enough kinetic energy to destroy any near future conceivable spacecraft, but will all that energy be converted into an explosion? Or will such a particle mostly just punch through the ship as a cloud of plasma so that only a limited amount of its kinetic energy is converted to ship damage?

  • $\begingroup$ different question but related: Why would a box full of 1cm balls released into LEO be so scary to an engineer supporting the ISS? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Sep 4, 2022 at 23:51
  • $\begingroup$ At 30km/s, 1g of material has 100g of TNT worth of kinetic energy. 1cm^3 will be between 1 and 8 grams depending on material; 1g ice, 2g rock, 7g iron. The damage will act similarly to a shaped charge along the impact trajectory. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 9:12
  • $\begingroup$ That 1 g of material provides enough energy to heat, melt and vaporize about 50 grams of iron if my calculations are correct. $\endgroup$
    – ikrase
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 10:19


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