What are the calculations involved in choosing the thickness of a micrometeoroid shield during the tradeoff study phase?

Where can I find publicly available data on the distribution of micrometeoroid hazard by projectile energy (and possibly, size) for Earth, Moon, Mars orbits and interplanetary space?

Do a spacecraft's attitude and attitude rates matter for real-life mission analysis (say, constantly Sun- or nadir-facing, "barbecue roll" etc.) (thus presenting different cross-sections to different sky segments)?


This is an incredibly complex problem, so the only way I can think of usefully answering your question is by referring you to NASA's Micrometeoroid and Orbital Debris (MMOD) Shield Ballistic Limit Analysis Program and its documentation (PDF).

This software complements the NASA's BUMPER-II risk assessment software package that was used for the Orion project (NESC - NASA Engineering and Safety Center - wasn't happy with Orion MMOD Risk Assessment and produced their own independent review) and supports analysis of various Whipple shield materials and configurations, from metallic dual plate to stuffed Whipple and honeycomb triple walls.

Some possible shielding configurations supported in the MMOD Shield Ballistic Limit Analysis Program:

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Some of its quoted applications and benefits include:


  • Effective: Allows for simple application of the MMOD shield design and analysis equations without requiring expert knowledge in the field
  • Efficient: Enables simple evaluation of competing shielding concepts in the preliminary design phase
  • Reliable: Provides consistency among users in the selection and application of relevant damage equations


  • Preliminary design and risk assessment for MMOD analysis
  • Spacecraft and satellite design

MMOD Shield Ballistic Limit Analysis Program's underlying data relies on the ORDEM2000 (Orbital Debris Engineering Models) modelling debris environment of objects between 10 µm to 1 m in size, and authors produced own ballistic limit curves using NASA's BUMPER-II and CSI's SAP2000 Ballistic Limit Analysis Program for various configurations and materials. See Page 44 Appendix: Validation of Program Output in NASA/TM–2009–214789 (PDF).

Example ballistic limit curves (representative titanium single-wall MMOD shield calculated using the published BLE and the Ballistic Limit Analysis Program):

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All images courtesy of NASA / Johnson Space Center.

Sadly, the licensing for this software, made available through JSC's Technology Transfer and Commercialization Office, limits its use to U.S. persons only. *

* For those from ESA member states that can't get access to ORDEM, I'd suggest ESA's MASTER (Meteoroid and Space Debris Terrestrial Environment Reference, reference model for space debris and meteoroid environment, suitable for evaluation of incident flux due to the particulate environment in Earth orbits), coupled with DRAMA (Debris Risk Assessment and Mitigation Analysis) and DISCOS (Database and Information System Characterising Objects in Space), all of which can be obtained via their Space Debris User Portal (SDUP).


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