The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) continues research into the utilization of photonic materials for spacecraft propulsion. Spacecraft propulsion, using photonic materials, will be achieved using a solar sail. A solar sail operates on the principle that photons, originating from the sun, impart pressure to the sail and therefore provide a source for spacecraft propulsion. The pressure imparted to a solar sail can be increased, up to a factor of two, if the sun-facing surface is perfectly reflective. Therefore, these solar sails are generally composed of a highly reflective metallic sun-facing layer, a thin polymeric substrate and occasionally a highly emissive back surface. Near term solar sail propelled science missions are targeting the Lagrange point 1 (L1) as well as locations sunward of L1 as destinations. These near term missions include the Solar Polar Imager and the L1 Diamond. The Environmental Effects Group at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) continues to actively characterize solar sail material in preparation for these near term solar sail missions. Previous investigations indicated that space environmental effects on sail material thermo-optical properties were minimal and would not significantly affect the propulsion efficiency of the sail. These investigations also indicated that the sail material mechanical stability degrades with increasing radiation exposure. This paper will further quantify the effect of space environmental exposure on the mechanical properties of candidate sail materials. Candidate sail materials for these missions include Aluminum coated Mylar TM, TeonexTM, and CP1 (Colorless Polyimide).
These materials were subjected to uniform radiation doses of electrons and protons in individual exposures sequences. Dose values ranged from 100 Mrads to over 5 Grads. The engineering performance property responses of thermo-optical and mechanical properties were characterized. The contribution of Near Ultraviolet (NUV) radiation combined with electron and proton radiation was also investigated.