Application of plasma on reentry vehicle communication and interplanetary spacecraft sterilization Open Access
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In order to gain a better understanding of the reactions occurring during reentry at the gas-surface interface, a reactive ion etch (RIE) plasma device was augmented to more accurately represent how material may paralyze in the presence of plasma. The device inflow was augmented to include a nitrogen line, and the outflow augmented to allow chemical analysis. A nichrome resistor heater was added to raise sample temperatures to pyrolysis levels.Cryo-focusing was performed on pyrolysis gases in order to test the ability to quantify compounds released during heating. This was done using liquid nitrogen prior to compounds entering the gas chromatography column. The nitrogen line also allowed initial study into the use of the RIE machine for planetary protection experiments due to the biocidal properties of Nitrogen/Oxygen plasma. This included static build-up experiments on equipment sensitive to electrostaticdischarge.Experiments were also carried out using George Washington University's Vacuum Arc Thruster (VAT). The VAT was used in an attempt to catalyze spallation from a silicon phenolic thermal protection system material (TPS).