Embrittlement of MISSE 5 Polymers After 13 Months of Space Exposure
Guo, Aobo, et al. (2013). "Embrittlement of MISSE 5 Polymers After 13 Months of Space Exposure." Protection of Materials and Structures From the Space Environment 32: 389-398
Understanding space environment induced degradation of spacecraft materials is essential when designing durable and stable spacecraft components. As a result of space radiation, debris impacts, atomic oxygen interaction, and thermal cycling, the outer surfaces of space materials degrade when exposed to low Earth orbit (LEO). The objective of this study was to measure the embrittlement of 37 thin film polymers after LEO space exposure. The polymers were flown aboard the International Space Station and exposed to the LEO space environment as part of the Materials International Space Station Experiment 5 (MISSE 5). The samples were flown in a nadir-facing position for 13 months and were exposed to thermal cycling along with low doses of atomic oxygen, direct solar radiation and omni-directional charged particle radiation. The samples were analyzed for space-induced embrittlement using a bend-test procedure in which the strain necessary to induce surface cracking was determined. Bend-testing was conducted using successively smaller mandrels to apply a surface strain to samples placed on a semi-suspended pliable platform. A pristine sample was also tested for each flight sample. Eighteen of the 37 flight samples experienced some degree of surface cracking during bend-testing, while none of the pristine samples experienced any degree of cracking. The results indicate that 49% of the MISSE 5 thin film polymers became embrittled in the space environment even though they were exposed to low doses (~2.75 krad (Si) dose through 127 μm Kapton) of ionizing radiation.