Atomic Oxygen (AO) Materials Testing for Low Earth Orbit (LEO)


FAST Facility

PSI’s FAST Facility for Materials Testing

Satellites in low earth orbit (LEO) at altitudes greater than 200 km sweep through a rarified atmosphere composed primarily of atomic oxygen (AO). Even though the AO density is very low (106 to 1010 cm-3) at these altitudes, high incident fluxes (1012 to 1016 /cm2/s) of energetic (5 eV translational energy) oxygen atoms are generated due to the orbital velocity (8 km/s). NASA studies in the early 1980's demonstrated that AO induced material degradation would have a severe impact on the performance of Space Station over a projected 30-year lifetime, and motivated development of a means of simulating the erosive LEO environment. PSI developed its laser detonation based FAST technology in 1985 in response to NASA’s call for ground-based test facilities capable of producing high flux AO at ~ 8 km/s. To this day, the FAST technology remains the gold standard for simulating the interaction of spacecraft materials in the LEO environment and, as a result, PSI has tested over 3000 material samples in its FAST facility for government and aerospace customers.

Sample Pallet
4.5”x4.5” Sample Pallet Prepared for AO Testing

PSI offers the following AO Testing Services:

Materials Erosion Testing:

  • AO fluences to 1021 /cm2 routine
  • Available AO velocity range: 5 – 12 km/s (2 eV – 11 eV)
  • Treatment area: 100 – 1000 cm2
  • Sample temperature controlled: 0 – 80 C routine
  • Mass loss precision: 1 µg/10 µg for samples weighing less than 250 mg/1000 mg, respectively

AO Source Chamber: PSI delivers AO source chamber with control software for installation on customer’s vacuum chamber

Full Turn-key System: PSI designs, builds and delivers vacuum chamber + AO source to customer’s specifications.

For more information, contact:

To download more information on the FAST AO source and associated testing services, click on the following PDF: