Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering


Kira Abercromby


The space environment presents various challenges when designing systems and selecting materials for applications beyond Earth’s atmosphere. For mission success, these challenges must be considered. One of the detrimental aspects of the space en- vironment is Atomic Oxygen, AO. Only present in harmful quantities in Lower Earth Orbit, LEO, AO causes significant damage to materials by breaking molecular bonds. California Polytechnic State University’s, Cal Poly’s, space environments laboratory features an apparatus capable of simulating this environment. Very thin or short samples were tested to observe the mass loss due to erosion of the sample material. Recent modifications to the system allow it to expose surfaces of three dimensional objects to AO rather than only those two dimensional objects. Simulating this effect on taller samples makes available the opportunity to test coupons that are then used in additional testing to measure the effect of that erosion on other properties. Challenges in adapting the AO system are explored and addressed, as well as some possible use cases for future work. As a use case, bending moment specimens were exposed to AO prior to testing in four point bending. Multiple regression models were constructed to determine variables contributing to slope changes between specimen pairs’ linear-elastic regions of force-displacement graphs. Results show that AO exposed specimens had significantly gentler slopes in the linear elastic region of the force-displacement curve, meaning that AO exposure reduced structural rigidity of the coupons.