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The Effect of Heating on the Degradation of Ground Laboratory and Space Irradiated Teflon(r) FEPThe outer most layer of the multilayer insulation (MLI) blankets on the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is back surface aluminized Teflon(R) FEP (fluorinated ethylene propylene). As seen by data collected after each of the three servicing missions and as observed during the second servicing mission (SM2), the FEP has become embrittled in the space environment, leading to degradation of the mechanical properties and severe on-orbit cracking of the FEP. During SM2, a sample of aluminized-FEP was retrieved from HST that had cracked and curled, exposing its aluminum backside to space. Because of the difference in optical properties between FEP and aluminum, this insulation piece reached 200 C on-orbit, which is significantly higher than the nominal MLI temperature extreme of 50 C. This piece was more brittle than other retrieved material from the first and third servicing missions (SM1 and SM3A, respectively). Due to this observation and the fact that Teflon thermal shields on the solar array bi-stems were heated on-orbit to 130 C, experiments have been conducted to determine the effect of heating on the degradation of FEP that has been irradiated in a ground laboratory facility or in space on HST. Teflon FEP samples were X-ray irradiated in a high vacuum facility in order to simulate the damage caused by radiation in the space environment. Samples of pristine FEP, X-ray irradiated FEP and FEP retrieved from the HST during SM3A were heat treated from 50 to 200 C at 25 intervals in a high vacuum facility and then tensile tested. In addition, samples were tested in a density gradient column to determine the effect of the radiation and heating on the density of FEP. Results indicate that although heating does not degrade the tensile properties of non-irradiated Teflon, there is a significant dependence of the percent elongation at failure of irradiated Teflon as a function of heating temperature. Irradiated Teflon was found to undergo increasing degradation in the elongation at failure as temperature was increased from room temperature to 200 C. Rate of degradation changes, which were consistent with the glass I transition temperatures for FEP, appeared to be present in both tensile and density data. The results indicate the significance of the on-orbit temperature of Teflon FEP with respect to its degradation in the low Earth orbital space environment.
Document ID
Document Type
Technical Memorandum (TM)
deGroh, Kim K.
(NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH United States)
Martin, Morgana
(Ohio Aerospace Inst. Brook Park, OH United States)
Date Acquired
September 7, 2013
Publication Date
July 1, 2002
Subject Category
Nonmetallic Materials
Report/Patent Number
NAS 1.15:211704
Meeting Information
Sixth International Conference on Protection of Materials and Structures From Space Environment(Toronto)
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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