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Materials Spaceflight Experiments

Materials Technology

Materials for Space Applications

  1. Kim K. de Groh

Published Online: 15 DEC 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470686652.eae243

Encyclopedia of Aerospace Engineering

Encyclopedia of Aerospace Engineering

How to Cite

de Groh, K. K. 2010. Materials Spaceflight Experiments. Encyclopedia of Aerospace Engineering. .

Author Information

  1. NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, OH, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 DEC 2010


Space environmental effects on spacecraft materials can be severe due to individual and synergistic interactions of orbital environments such as solar ultraviolet radiation, charged particle radiation, temperature extremes and thermal cycling, impacts from micrometeoroids and orbital debris, environment induced contamination, and low Earth orbital atomic oxygen. Space environmental threats vary greatly based on spacecraft materials, thicknesses and stress levels, and the mission environment and duration. Materials spaceflight experiments have been conducted since the early 1970s to help understand the effects of the space environment on spacecraft materials, components and devices. Materials experiments have been flown on Skylab, Salyut and Mir, the space shuttle, and the International Space Station. In addition, there have been free-flyer experiments such as the Long Duration Exposure Facility. In addition to being critical for understanding the engineering performance of materials exposed to specific space environments, data from spaceflight experiments can be used to determine correlations between exposures in ground-test facilities and space, thus allowing more accurate in-space materials performance predictions to be made based on ground-facility testing. This chapter reviews most major materials spaceflight experiments along with some of the lessons learned from the experiments, and how the results have influenced materials use and selection.


  • spaceflight experiment;
  • spacecraft;
  • materials;
  • low Earth orbit;
  • atomic oxygen;
  • ultraviolet radiation;
  • charged particle radiation;
  • environmental degradation;
  • contamination;
  • International Space Station