As the water outgas of a space shuttle passes through the rarefied atmosphere at orbital altitude, collisions occur between the gases with sufficient energy to excite infrared-active water molecules to various vibrational and rotational states. An infrared contaminant model (IR model) has been developed to study the shuttle-induced excitation and emission of water molecules outgassed from the space shuttle. The focus of the first application of the model is translation-to-vibration (T-V) energy transfer since estimates suggest that this process should dominate the production of vibrationally excited H2O under typical low Earth orbit conditions. Using the velocity and position distribution functions of interacting neutral gases obtained from a neutral gases interaction model, the spatial distributions of excitation and IR radiation from contaminant water are computed, and typical results are presented. Infrared spectral data (450 - 2500/cm), measured by the Cryogenic Infrared Radiance Instrumentation for Shuttle (CIRRIS-1A) sensor on STS-39 (April 28 to May 6, 1991) at an altitude near 265 km, are used to test model predictions. The dependence of the radiant emission structure and brightness on outgassing rates and altitudes is discussed. The time history of the contaminant water outgassing rate is inferred for STS-39, and it is compared with the mass-spectrometer-based results for STS-4 (June 26 to July 4, 1982). Also, estimates of H2O column density at mission elapsed time (MET) 50 hours are compared for missions STS-2, STS-3, STS-4, and STS-39.
Journal of Geophysical Research (ISSN 0148-0227); 99; A10; p. 19,585-19,596