Corrosion at KSC - Star Background

Kennedy Space Center’s

Corrosion Engineering Laboratory

Corrosion at KSC - Star Background

Kennedy Space Center’s

Corrosion Engineering Laboratory

Corrosion at KSC

The Corrosion Engineering Laboratory at the NASA J. F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is a network of people, equipment, and facilities that provide engineering services and technical innovations in all areas of corrosion for NASA and external customers.

The NASA KSC Corrosion Engineering Laboratory consists of a Beachside Atmospheric Corrosion Test Site, a Coatings Application Facility, and an Indoor Corrosion Laboratory. In addition, the Corrosion Engineering Laboratory works within the larger NASA Engineering Directorate to include other capabilities for performing both chemical and physical analysis on coatings and materials, non-destructive evaluation (NDE) methods, and testing, such as tensile, shock, and vibration.

The Corrosion Engineering Laboratory is a multiuser facility that serves NASA Centers, various DoD and Government Agencies, private companies, and educational institutions. The KSC Beachside Atmospheric Exposure Test Site is unique within the government, making it a valuable resource that is available to customers outside NASA.

Kennedy Space Center’s launch facilities are located within 1000 feet of the Atlantic Ocean. Salt from the ocean combined with the heavy lift launch vehicles’ acidic rocket exhaust make corrosion protection a high priority. For these reasons, KSC maintains state-of-the-art corrosion protection capabilities. Our Atmospheric Corrosion Test Site has been documented as having higher atmospheric corrosion rates than other known test sites in the United States.

Historical Overview

Corrosion control at NASA KSC began in the 1960s with the evaluation of long-term protective coatings for the atmospheric protection of carbon steel, which was and is still used for launch structures and ground support equipment (GSE) at NASA. The KSC Beachside Atmospheric Corrosion Test Site was created at that time. The site has provided over 50 years of information on the long-term performance of many different types of materials. Over the years, numerous material failures at KSC have been attributed to various forms of corrosion (atmospheric corrosion, stress corrosion cracking, pitting corrosion, crevice corrosion, intergranular corrosion, hydrogen embrittlement, corrosion fatigue, etc.). Materials testing and applied research is performed by engineers and technicians at the Corrosion Engineering Laboratory to identify solutions to resolve many of these material failure concerns


First coatings testing located at the Cape Kennedy launch pads during the Gemini/Apollo Programs for long-term protective coatings for atmospheric protection of carbon steel. The NASA Beachside Atmospheric Corrosion Test Site was established to test materials, coatings, and maintenance procedures near the launch pads.

1966 - Corrosion at KSC

Apollo-Saturn 201 lifts off from Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 34, Florida on Feb. 26, 1966. The AS-201 mission was an unmanned suborbital flight to test the Saturn 1B launch vehicle and the Apollo Command and Service Modules. This was the first flight of the S-IB and S-IVB stages, including the first flight test of the liquid-hydrogen/liquid oxygen-propelled J-2 engine in the S-IVB stage.


NASA began large-scale testing of coatings for carbon steel in a seacoast launch environment to protect ground and launch support equipment at KSC.

1968 - Corrosion at KSC

Photo of KSC Beachside Atmospheric Corrosion Test Site in 1969 with Saturn V in the background.


Corrosion conditions at the launch pads became even more severe due to solid rocket booster (SRB) exhaust products from the Space Shuttle. The Space Shuttle’s Solid Rocket Boosters introduced acidic deposition products into the local launch pad atmosphere, producing 70 tons of 0.1M hydrogen chloride per launch. NH4ClO4(s) + Al(s) → (binder is Fe2O3) Al2O3(s) + HCl(g) + H2O(g) + NOx(g)

1981 - Corrosion at KSC

STS-1, Space Shuttle Columbia launches from Pad 39A on April 12, 1981.


Numerous studies at the NASA Beachside Atmospheric Corrosion Test Site required an expansion to 600 feet parallel to the Atlantic Ocean. Studies included environmentally friendlier coatings, zinc-rich primers and inorganic topcoats, and silicone ablative coatings. The majority of the testing identified materials, coatings, and maintenance procedures for launch hardware and equipment exposed to the highly corrosive environment at the launch pad.

1990 - Corrosion at KSC


Accelerated corrosion testing began with salt fog chamber and electrochemical laboratory testing. NASA began accelerated testing to screen coatings with inhibitors and monitor changes in coatings and new metallic materials as a function time.

1985 - Corrosion at KSC

• Salt fog chambers
• Early electrochemical testing equipment


Computerized corrosion damage management system created to maintain an organized list of 3,600+ critical components (totaling to 7-8 million ft2) for the Administration’s usage.

2000 - Corrosion at KSC


NASA Technical Standard NASA-STD-5008 for Protective Coatings of Carbon Steel, Stainless Steel, and Aluminum on Launch Structures, Facilities, and Ground Support Equipment is approved. This also established zones of exposure for specific environments. New customers, including the DoD, began testing coatings at the Beachside Atmospheric Corrosion Test Site.

2001 - Corrosion at KSC


Site was upgraded to include a weather station, new permanent building with laboratory and machine shop, and a remote camera system. New forms of testing were developed in order to conduct more unique studies. The Alternating Seawater Spray Test (ASST) was created as an attempt to improve data that supports the correlation between accelerated test methods and long-term atmospheric exposure. The Seawater Immersion test system was created to simulate natural tidal conditions. New large-scale coatings studies were implemented for NASA ground support. KSC began testing materials for customers outside of NASA.

2006 - Corrosion at KSC


The latest expansion included 300 linear feet of space at the south end of the current test site. 70 tons of fines that were recycled from the Crawler way rock were used for the fill and surface of the new section and new driveways. A 6-foot wide sidewalk that spans the entire 900 feet was installed to better secure the racks and stands and to create a more secure environment for worker safety and stability. Electrochemical and salt fog chamber equipment were upgraded.

2014 - Corrosion at KSC


Stream the video highlighting the beachside atmospheric corrosion test site and some key personnel.

Corrosion Presentation

View a presentation that includes a history of corrosion at NASA KSC, our full laboratory services, and how we test a coating for use on ground support structures.