The Hypervelocity Impact Team (HVIT) was founded in 1980 with a mandate to study the hypervelocity impact (HVI) characteristics of composite materials such as graphite epoxy. A small, 1.7 mm bore, light-gas gun was built in-house from drawings supplied by the NASA Langley Research Center. A few years later, a 4.3 mm bore light-gas gun was purchased from a commercial vendor. It was then modified and improved to perform meteoroid and orbital debris shielding research. Later, the HVIT added a 12.7 mm bore gun, which was provided by the NASA Ames Research Center Hypervelocity Free-Flight Facility.
Since its inception, the HVIT has performed and analyzed over 8,000 hypervelocity impact experiments on spacecraft shields and materials. These experiments and the ensuing analysis, in combinations with countless hydrocode simulations, have contributed to the development of shield ballistic limit equations used as the foundation for thousands of meteoroid and orbital debris threat assessments in support of critical space programs.