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Issues and Consequences of Atomic Oxygen Undercutting of Protected Polymers in Low Earth OrbitHydrocarbon based polymers that are exposed to atomic oxygen in low Earth orbit are slowly oxidized which results in recession of their surface. Atomic oxygen protective coatings have been developed which are both durable to atomic oxygen and effective in protecting underlying polymers. However, scratches, pin window defects, polymer surface roughness and protective coating layer configuration can result in erosion and potential failure of protected thin polymer films even though the coatings are themselves atomic oxygen durable. This paper will present issues that cause protective coatings to become ineffective in some cases yet effective in others due to the details of their specific application. Observed in-space examples of failed and successfully protected materials using identical protective thin films will be discussed and analyzed. Proposed approaches to prevent the failures that have been observed will also be presented.
Document ID
Document Type
Technical Memorandum (TM)
Banks, Bruce A.
(NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH United States)
Snyder, Aaron
(NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH United States)
Miller, Sharon K.
(NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH United States)
Demko, Rikako
(Cleveland State Univ. Cleveland, OH United States)
Date Acquired
September 7, 2013
Publication Date
April 1, 2002
Subject Category
Spacecraft Design, Testing And Performance
Report/Patent Number
NAS 1.15:211577
Meeting Information
Sixth International Conference on Protection of Materials and Structures from Space Environment(Toronto)
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.

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