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How dangerous is a hull breach?

Posted by: Ascee - Mon Sep 30, 2013 4:39 pm
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How dangerous is a hull breach? 
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Post How dangerous is a hull breach?   Posted on: Mon Sep 30, 2013 4:39 pm
Hi.
I am working on a video game about space travel right now.
I want the game to be fairly accurate and not completely off, so I am doing a little bit of research.
I was wondering how dangerous it would actually be if the hull of a space ship was breached.
Lets assume following scenario: A spaceship stays stationary in empty space. It is hit by a small piece of debris. Its hull is damaged.
Lets assume the leakage is about 1m^2 in size. What exactly would happen?
Would the forces be strong enough to pull the crew and the equipment out into space?
If we assume the crew is wearing protective suits, could they still stand and operate the equipment inside the ship?

Thank you very much.


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Post Re: How dangerous is a hull breach?   Posted on: Tue Oct 01, 2013 6:40 pm
Google: "explosive depressurization".

Yes, anything not bolted down will get sucked out the hole in the second or two it takes to fully vent.

But if craft is hit by something in space that can put a 1m hole in it, they probably don't have to worry about decompression. Things in space move at very high relative velocities to each other, on the order of thousands of km per hour. This means that they have tremendous energies, and if it can put a large hole in it, that entire section is likely to be completely destroyed. Like a bomb went off in it.

For you game, I think you'll want something smaller, much smaller. A smaller microasteroid. Contemporary spacecraft can take hits from sand or rice grain sized hits, but anything the size of a rifle bullet will penetrate, and something the size of your fist will definitely go "through and through", it will punch two holes in the pressure hull and cause spalling damage from pieces of the projectile and the hull and other stuff in the way getting flung around.

People in that section at the time are likely to be killed or incapacitated directly, and because the only way to prevent decompression of the entire volume is to close all compartment doors, they will die anyway unless they are really lucky and didn't have their suits damaged.


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Post Re: How dangerous is a hull breach?   Posted on: Tue Oct 01, 2013 7:56 pm
If you do manage to avoid being hit by shrapnel

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eft_DF6T2i8#t=15

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Post Re: How dangerous is a hull breach?   Posted on: Tue Oct 01, 2013 8:15 pm
Thank you very much for the reply.

I have some other questions though:
1) Could the player deliberately open the airlocks of his own ship to extinguish fires on board? If that would be possible, would the fire immediately vanish or would it continue until all air has been sucked out of the ship?

2) If we assume the crew is wearing space suits with some kind of mechanism to hold them on deck (for example magnetic boots or some other silliness) could they have a chance to survive the breach?

3) If we assume that the doors inside the space ship (connecting the different rooms) are opened at the time of the breach, would all other rooms take the same damage from the sudden decompression? Or does the distance from the hole make a difference big enough to reduce damage?

Thanks again.


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Post Re: How dangerous is a hull breach?   Posted on: Tue Oct 01, 2013 11:41 pm
Ascee wrote:
1) Could the player deliberately open the airlocks of his own ship to extinguish fires on board? If that would be possible, would the fire immediately vanish or would it continue until all air has been sucked out of the ship?


Depends.

Most airlocks are designed so that they literally can't be opened to vent the compartment. The doors swing towards the greater pressure.

Image

Pressure can be vented, usually, but it would require overriding a whole bunch of electronic and manual failsafe systems, and wouldn't be quick. How quickly a fire goes out also depends on your gas pressure and composition. Is it Earth normal 20% O2 at 14psi? Or 100% O2 at 8psi?

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2) If we assume the crew is wearing space suits with some kind of mechanism to hold them on deck (for example magnetic boots or some other silliness) could they have a chance to survive the breach?


Maybe.

Quote:
3) If we assume that the doors inside the space ship (connecting the different rooms) are opened at the time of the breach, would all other rooms take the same damage from the sudden decompression? Or does the distance from the hole make a difference big enough to reduce damage?


Yes. The speed of the gas flowing out will be slowed down as it goes around stuff and corners. It will still be fast, and have the condensation effect (it will fog up).

Of course any spacecraft designer would design that to not happen. On the ISS each compartment has sliding hatches on each end that are held open by solinoids. If anything happens or it loses power, they close and are held shut by which ever side has greater pressure.

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Post Re: How dangerous is a hull breach?   Posted on: Wed Oct 02, 2013 12:43 pm
It's actually happened for real once, with the Mir space station. The hole wasn't very big, and everyone lived to tell the tale, but it could have easily been a lot worse...

http://www.spacesafetymagazine.com/2011/09/16/lessons-learned-mir-collision/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tM7fTLLmgbk

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Post Re: How dangerous is a hull breach?   Posted on: Thu Oct 03, 2013 9:22 am
Thank you both very much.
I think I can work with this information.

The quick answers are very much appreciated.


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Post Re: How dangerous is a hull breach?   Posted on: Fri Oct 04, 2013 1:52 am
No problem. What is the game you are working on?


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Post Re: How dangerous is a hull breach?   Posted on: Fri Oct 04, 2013 8:33 am
Since I am workin on it all by myself its just something small.
A little sci-fi RPG where the player is the captain of his own little space craft. He can upgrade the systems, buy supplies, recruit new crew members and travel between space stations.
Occasionally, depending on the play style, there might be battles between 2 or more ships.
I wasnt quite sure how powerful it would be if the hull breached due to a hit. Or whether boarding other ships would be a good idea or not.
Of course there is much silliness in video games, but I would like to make it at least somewhat realistic. (It still has to be fun, of course)


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Post Re: How dangerous is a hull breach?   Posted on: Fri Oct 04, 2013 3:30 pm
Accidental depressurization is very, very bad. Besides the fact that things move very fast and pack a lot of energy in space, even the air inside of a spacecraft also has a lot of potential energy. For example the ISS's structure can only withstand a 100mm hole. Any bigger than than that and the pressure hull will fail and rip open from the force of the out rushing gas.

If there ever are something foolish like space warships, probably one of the tasks for "clearing for action" will be to partially or completely depressurize the interior spaces to lessen the damage from fire and kinetic release.

Here is a couple of online resources on the subject of when bad things happen in space. I think you should be able to view them.

Protecting the Space Station from Meteoroids and Orbital Debris, 1997.

ISS – Safe Haven evaluations


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