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Atmospheric Exposure Test Facility

The Atmospheric Exposure Site (Kennedy Space Center, FL) was established in the 1960s and has been cited as the most corrosive atmospheric corrosion test site in the United States. It is located at latitude 28.59406°N, longitude 80.58283°W, and approximately 100 feet from the high tide line. Over the years thousands of coated test panels, stress corrosion cracking specimens, and commercially produced components have been evaluated in the high salt, high humidity, high UV Florida seacoast environment.

Corrosion rates of carbon steel calibrating
specimens at various locations*

Location Type Of Environment µm/yr Corrosion rate (a) mils/yr
Esquimalt, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada Rural marine 13 0.5
Pittsburgh, PA Industrial 30 1.2
Cleveland, OH Industrial 38 1.5
Limon Bay, Panama, CZ Tropical marine 61 2.4
East Chicago, IL Industrial 84 3.3
Brazos River, TX Industrial marine 94 3.7
Daytona Beach, FL Marine 295 11.6
Pont Reyes, CA Marine 500 19.7
Kure Beach, NC (80 ft. from ocean) Marine 533 21.0
Galeta Point Beach, Panama CZ Marine 686 27.0
Kennedy Space Center, FL (beach) Marine 1070 42.0
(a) Two-year average

* Data extracted from: S. Coburn, Atmospheric Corrosion, in Metals Handbook, 9th ed, Vol. 1, Properties and Selection, Carbon Steels, American Society for Metals, Metals Park, Ohio, 1978, p.720

The site has approximately 600 feet of front row exposure for atmospheric corrosion specimens. Many types of test samples can be accommodated, including standard size test coupons (4"X 6"), stress corrosion cracking specimens, and full-scale test articles. These experiments can be performed in either a boldly exposed or sheltered configuration. Both power and data connections are available within the site to power test articles and record onboard data instrumentation outputs.

Corrosivity

KSC has the highest corrosivity of any test site in the continental United States. This means samples exposed at this site will weather or degrade at rates far in excess of the rates experienced at other sites. The chart below shows the relationship between salt deposition, corrosion, and distance from the ocean.

Relative Corrosivity of Atmospheres at Various Distances from the Seacoast
J.D. Morrison, Report on the Relative Corrosivity of
Atmospheres at Various Distances from the Seacoast,
NASA-KSC Report MTB 099-74

Beach Corrosion Test Site

Beach Corrosion Site from Above

Continuous Atmospheric Condition Monitoring

Continuous on-line monitoring of the following parameters is recorded and can be transmitted to any location:

  1. Temperature
  2. Humidity
  3. Wind speed and direction
  4. Rainfall
                measured in 20 minute increments
                recorded and archived by day, month, year, etc.
  5. Total incident solar radiation
  6. UVB radiation.
Examples of Exposure Results at the Atmospheric Site

Exfoliation Corrosion of Carbon Steel

The left photo shows exfoliation corrosion of carbon steel after filiform corrosion undercuts a protective coating. The original flat panel was scribed with an X to expose the underlying metal and to test the protectiveness of the coating at holidays in the coating.

The photo to the right shows corrosion of aluminum panels after the coating debonds from the aluminum substrate.

Corrosion of Coated Aluminum Panels

Exfoliation Corrosion of 2024-T6 Aluminum

The photo to the left shows exfoliation corrosion of 2024-T6 aluminum after years of exposure at the Beach Corrosion Test Site. The corrosion pattern is caused by the expansion of corrosion products between the primary aluminum crystals.
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