Atomic Oxygen Erosion Yield Prediction for Spacecraft Polymers in Low Earth Orbit
Banks BA, et al. (2009). "Atomic Oxygen Erosion Yield Prediction for Spacecraft Polymers in Low Earth Orbit."
The ability to predict the atomic oxygen erosion yield of polymers based on their chemistry and physical properties has been only partially successful because of a lack of reliable low Earth orbit (LEO) erosion yield data. Unfortunately, many of the early experiments did not utilize dehydrated mass loss measurements for erosion yield determination, and the resulting mass loss due to atomic oxygen exposure may have been compromised because samples were often not in consistent states of dehydration during the pre-flight and post-flight mass measurements. This is a particular problem for short duration mission exposures or low erosion yield materials. However, as a result of the retrieval of the Polymer Erosion and Contamination Experiment (PEACE) flown as part of the Materials International Space Station Experiment 2 (MISSE 2), the erosion yields of 38 polymers and pyrolytic graphite were accurately measured. The experiment was exposed to the LEO environment for 3.95 years from August 16, 2001 to July 30, 2005 and was successfully retrieved during a space walk on July 30, 2005 during Discovery’s STS-114 Return to Flight mission. The 40 different materials tested (including Kapton H fluence witness samples) were selected specifically to represent a variety of polymers used in space as well as a wide variety of polymer chemical structures. The MISSE 2 PEACE Polymers experiment used carefully dehydrated mass measurements, as well as accurate density measurements to obtain accurate erosion yield data for high-fluence (8.43× 10 21 atoms/cm2). The resulting data was used to develop an erosion yield predictive tool with a correlation coefficient of 0.895 and uncertainty of ±6.3 × 10 –25 cm3/atom. The predictive tool utilizes the chemical structures and physical properties of polymers to predict in-space atomic oxygen erosion yields. A predictive tool concept (September 2009 version) is presented which represents an improvement over an earlier (December 2008) version.