The Materials International Space Station Experiment 2 (MISSE 2) Polymer Erosion and Contamination Experiment (PEACE) polymers were exposed to the environment of low Earth orbit (LEO) for 3.95 years from 2001 to 2005. There were forty‐one different PEACE polymers, which were flown on the exterior of the International Space Station (ISS) in order to determine their atomic oxygen erosion yields. In LEO, atomic oxygen is an environmental durability threat, particularly for long duration mission exposures. Although space flight experiments, such as the MISSE 2 PEACE experiment, are ideal for determining LEO environmental durability of spacecraft materials, ground‐laboratory testing is often relied upon for durability evaluation and prediction. Unfortunately, significant differences exist between LEO atomic oxygen exposure and atomic oxygen exposure in ground‐laboratory facilities. These differences include variations in species, energies, thermal exposures and radiation exposures, all of which may result in different reactions and erosion rates. In an effort to improve the accuracy of ground‐based durability testing, ground‐laboratory to in‐space atomic oxygen correlation experiments have been conducted. In these tests, the atomic oxygen erosion yields of the PEACE polymers were determined relative to Kapton H using a radio‐frequency (RF) plasma asher (operated on air). The asher erosion yields were compared to the MISSE 2 PEACE erosion yields to determine the correlation between erosion rates in the two environments. This paper provides a summary of the MISSE 2 PEACE experiment; it reviews the specific polymers tested as well as the techniques used to determine erosion yield in the asher, and it provides a correlation between the space and ground‐laboratory erosion yield values. Using the PEACE polymers’ asher to in‐space erosion yield ratios will allow more accurate in‐space materials performance predictions to be made based on plasma asher durability evaluation.
Research Containing: Spacecraft materials
This study is part of a Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE) sequence to characterize the performance of prospective spacecraft materials when subjected to the synergistic effects of the space environment. Atomic oxygen (AO) is the most prevalent species in low earth orbit (LEO). In this environment AO is mainly responsible for the erosion of hydrocarbons and halocarbon polymers. The AO erosion rates of Kapton (DuPont) H are known and well documented. Hence, it is customary to compare the AO erosion yields of candidate materials to the commonly accepted standard of this polyimide. The purpose of this study was to provide characterization of AO degradation of SiO(x) protected Kapton H film, which was subject during MISSE 2 to undercutting erosion beneath microscopic defects in the protective film, and compare the degradation resulting from hyperthermal ram (approx.4.5 eV) LEO AO to the degradation resulting from exposure to thermal ground-based (approx.0.04 eV) AO.