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Atomic Oxygen Environments, Effects, and MitigationAtomic oxygen is the most predominant specie in low Earth orbit (LEO) and is contained in the upper atmosphere of many other planetary bodies. Formed by photo-dissociation of molecular oxygen, it is highly reactive and energetic enough to break chemical bonds on the surface of many materials and react with them to form either stable or volatile oxides. The extent of the damage for spacecraft depends a lot on how much atomic oxygen arrives at the surface, the energy of the atoms, the reactivity of the material that is exposed to it and other constituents in the atmosphere. Oxide formation can result in shrinkage, cracking, or erosion which can also result in changes in optical, thermal, or mechanical properties of the materials exposed. The extent of the reaction can be affected by mechanical loading, temperature, and other environmental components such as ultraviolet radiation or charged particles. Atomic oxygen generally causes a surface reaction, but it can scatter under coatings and into crevices causing oxidation much farther into a spacecraft surface or structure than would be expected. Atomic oxygen effects for LEO atomic oxygen compared to atomic oxygen effects in a Mars environment, effects atomic oxygen can have on typical spacecraft materials, and mitigation techniques will be presented.
Document ID
Document Type
Miller, Sharon K. R.
(NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH, United States)
Banks, Bruce A.
(Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) Cleveland, OH, United States)
Date Acquired
July 22, 2019
Publication Date
May 13, 2018
Subject Category
Lunar And Planetary Science And Exploration
Spacecraft Design, Testing And Performance
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
Applied Space Environments Conference (ASEC) 2019(Los Angeles, CA)
Funding Number(s)
WBS: 869021.
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.
Technical Review
Single Expert
Oxygen atoms
low Earth orbit
spacecraft material performance
low Mars orbit

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