Weathering of Thermal Control Coatings 2007-01-3020
Spacecraft radiators reject heat to their surroundings. Radiators can be deployable or mounted on the body of the spacecraft. NASA's Crew Exploration Vehicle is to use body mounted radiators. Coatings play an important role in heat rejection. The coatings provide the radiator surface with the desired optical properties of low solar absorptance and high infrared emittance. These specialized surfaces are applied to the radiator panel in a number of ways, including conventional spraying, plasma spraying, or as an appliqué. Not specifically designed for a weathering environment, little is known about the durability of conventional paints, coatings, and appliqués upon exposure to weathering and subsequent exposure to solar wind and ultraviolet radiation exposure. In addition to maintaining their desired optical properties, the coatings must also continue to adhere to the underlying radiator panel. This is a challenge, as new composite radiator panels are being considered as replacements for the aluminum panels used previously. Various thermal control paints, coatings, and appliqués were applied to aluminum and isocyanate ester composite coupons and were exposed for 30 days at the Atmospheric Exposure Site of the Kennedy Space Center's Beach Corrosion Facility for the purpose of identifying their durability to weathering. Selected coupons were subsequently exposed to simulated solar wind and vacuum ultraviolet radiation to identify the effect of a simulated space environment on the as-weathered surfaces. Optical properties and adhesion testing were used to document the durability of the paints and coatings. The purpose of this paper is to present the results of the weathering testing and to summarize the durability of several thermal control paints, coatings, and appliqués to weathering and post-weathering environments.