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Plasma on space shuttle

  1. Nov 20, 2011 #1
    How exactly is plasma generated when space vehicles reenter earth's atmosphere? How do the ions show up? I get how the air drag creates the initial heat, but from there I do not know. Have been searching the net for about 30min and came up with nada.
     
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  3. Nov 20, 2011 #2

    boneh3ad

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    When you get that hot, diatomic gases like oxygen and nitrogen begin to dissociate and you end up with with a bunch of ions floating around.
     
  4. Nov 20, 2011 #3
    Can someone confirm this? I was under the impression that the pressure, not the heat was the initiator
     
  5. Nov 20, 2011 #4

    boneh3ad

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    You need energy for a gas to ionize. Pressure itself doesn't provide that sort of energy. However, the extreme compression that exists near the nose (and a few other areas) of hypersonic vehicles causes the gas to heat up and the heat leads to ionization. It is true that it gets that hot as a result of pressure changes, but it is the heat itself that causes ionization.
     
  6. Nov 20, 2011 #5
    Awesome, thanks for the clarification!
     
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