- Conference date: 20–23 May 2008
- Location: Toronto (Canada)
The ability to predict the durability of materials in the low Earth orbit (LEO) environment by exposing them in ground‐based facilities is important because one can achieve test results sooner, expose more types of materials, and do it much more cost effectively than to test them in flight. However, flight experiments to determine the durability of groups or classes of materials that behave similarly are needed in order to provide correlations of how much time in ground‐based facilities represents certain durations in LEO for the material type of interest. An experiment was designed and flown on the Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE) 2 (3.95 years in LEO) and MISSE 4 (1.04 years in LEO) in order to develop this type of correlation between ground‐based RF plasma exposure and LEO exposure for coated Kapton. The experiment consisted of a sample of Kapton H® (DuPont) polyimide coated with 1300 Angstroms of silicon dioxide by Sheldahl Inc. The samples were exposed to atomic oxygen in a radio frequency (RF) generated atomic oxygen plasma. Mass change was measured for the samples and then the same samples were exposed in flight on MISSE and the mass change was again recorded post‐flight. After documentation, the samples were exposed again in the ground‐based RF plasma in order to determine if the erosion would be the same as it had been in the same facility pre‐flight which would indicate whether or not the sample had been damaged during flight and if the defects on the surface were those that were there pre‐flight. The slopes of the mass change versus fluence plots were then used to develop a correlation factor that can be used to help predict the durability of coated Kapton in ground‐based isotropic atomic oxygen plasma systems. This paper describes the experiment and presents the correlation factor results.
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