Plasma on space shuttle

  • Thread starter Swankie
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  • #1
Swankie
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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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  • #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.
 
  • #3
Swankie
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Can someone confirm this? I was under the impression that the pressure, not the heat was the initiator
 
  • #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.
 
  • #5
Swankie
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Awesome, thanks for the clarification!
 

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