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Researching the Effects of Space Weather on Polyimides

Opening paragraphs from “AFRL investigating space weather effects on satellite materials”, Edwards Air Force Base, edwards.af.mil, Donna Lindner, August 5, 2019

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – The Air Force Research Laboratory, in partnership with several universities, has investigated the effects of space weather damage to polyimides, materials used extensively in spacecraft construction due to their high heat resistance.

The researchers determined the previously unknown chemical and physical effects of electron bombardment in Earth’s magnetosphere on these polymers. Electrons trapped in the Earth’s magnetic field are the most damaging components of weather in the geosynchronous Earth orbit.

Polyimide films, such as Kapton, are used to construct spacecraft components, including flexible printed circuits, electronics, electronic packaging, wiring and thermal blankets. This material must endure the extreme and variable radiation conditions present in the operational environment for each spacecraft.

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