AFRL erosion testing is out of this world

Published: Friday, June 22, 2018 @ 3:14 PM

            The AFRL Materials and Manufacturing Directorate Erosion Team conducted a series of coatings durability tests for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, pictured here in an artist’s rendition. (Photo courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech)
The AFRL Materials and Manufacturing Directorate Erosion Team conducted a series of coatings durability tests for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, pictured here in an artist’s rendition. (Photo courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Researchers at the Air Force Research Laboratory are doing their part to make the next Mars rover mission an astronomical success.

At the request of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and project partners, AFRL recently concluded a series of tests in the Particle Erosion Test Facility, located in the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate’s Coatings, Corrosion and Erosion Laboratory. For this effort, AFRL experts evaluated the effects of dust, particulates, and small rocks on the protective surface coatings of the Mars 2020 rover vehicle.

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Mars rovers are sophisticated, multi-instrumented pieces of equipment that travel over the surface of the red planet recording data, performing mechanical tasks and essentially serving as moving laboratories. It stands to reason, therefore, that project engineers need to ensure the rover is well-protected for entry into the planet’s often inhospitable environment.

When a rover is deployed onto the Martian surface, it is released from an atmospheric entry vehicle, where it parachutes down onto the planet surface. This entry is particularly hazardous, as blowing sand and gravel pose tremendous risks. This debris can strike the surface of the rover, potentially damaging the critical protective surface coatings of the vehicle.

In the Particle Erosion Test Facility, or the “sand-rig,” as it is informally called, AFRL researchers took coated test specimens and blasted them with particulate matter that ideally would match conditions experienced during the exploratory mission.

For this particular effort, researchers performed two distinct tests events. In one set of tests, the team used a finer-grain media to batter specimens at speeds of up to 500 mph. In the other set, an instrument called a gravelometer was utilized to propel larger gravel-sized rocks toward the candidate materials. Throughout the test event, the team was replicating potentially the most extreme conditions that the rover would experience during the entry process.

“The entry into the atmosphere is the most destructive aspect of the journey,” said AFRL Erosion Team Lead Joseph Shumaker, “so that’s what we were tasked to look at.”

He explained that JPL provided the team with test parameters and specifications, and the erosion team was able to design, plan and successfully implement the testing that the customer requested.

“Ideally, we tried to mimic the damage that would be observed on Mars,” he said. “It’s fun trying to think about how we are going to imitate the damage of Mars rocks.”

Shumaker said the tests generated valuable data they then provided to their customer. The information gathered from these tests will help project designers understand the durability of the materials and make the necessary adjustments, if any.

This is not the first time AFRL has conducted such tests for the Mars rover design team. Shumaker said similar tests were conducted for the rover Curiosity, which was launched in 2011 and is continuing to perform tasks on the planet’s surface.

“When I hear and see stories on the rover, I can look at it and say, ‘The AFRL Erosion Team had a hand in that,’” he said.

Shumaker said that over the years, the team has successfully provided critical data to many customers throughout the government, military and commercial sectors, as a non-biased, rapid-response test facility.

“We work with customers to make sure we provide good, usable, reliable data. No matter what rig we use, we want to make sure we address the concerns and questions the customer has.”

The Particle Erosion Test Facility is one of many testing capabilities housed within the AFRL Coatings, Corrosion and Erosion Lab. Other specialized tools include the Supersonic Rain Erosion Test Rig, the Hot Erosion Rig and Whirling Arm Rain Erosion Test Facility.

The AFRL Erosion Lab is also home to advanced laboratory capabilities for in-depth environmental particulate analysis. According to Shumaker, this combination of test equipment along with the group’s expertise and characterization capabilities enable the AFRL erosion team to be a world leader. He said the erosion team is also involved within the NATO science and technology community, providing information on the impact and degradation effects of environmental particulates on platforms.

“When you look at the erosion team and what we have, it’s really unique because there is no other facility in the world that has our test capabilities under one roof,” he said. “That’s really what separates us, and we plan on continuing to grow our capabilities.”

Shumaker said he especially anticipates capability growth in the area of environmental materials characterization, or in other words, the analysis of different types of sands, volcanic ash and other similar materials.

He said the group is already expanding their capabilities in this area, noting that this capability is vital in understanding how different types of particulates interact and impact coatings durability throughout military platforms and engine technologies.

“We are growing our capabilities by leaps and bounds to become a one-stop shop for accelerated materials durability testing and analysis,” he said.

Shumaker said that knowing the work the AFRL team does and the benefit it brings to platforms such as the Mars rover makes the job especially rewarding.

“The testing we’ve done here will have an impact on the mission, and that’s what it’s all about.”

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Comfortable midweek temperatures, showers to return this weekend 

Published: Wednesday, July 18, 2018 @ 3:37 AM

Photo by Binyamin Mellish/Pexels
Photo by Binyamin Mellish/Pexels

>> LISTEN: Cloudy with a Chance of Podcast: Fire and Weather


  • Comfortable and warm this afternoon
  • Showers and storms return for weekend
  • Temperatures near normal

>> 5-Day Forecast

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TODAY: A beautiful morning with cooler temperatures around 60 degrees and some northern spots in the 50s. Dew points stay in the 50s today, meaning a comfortable air mass is in place. Overall, sunshine and a few clouds for the day with highs reaching in the low 80s, which is close to normal.

>> ISS will fly over Dayton this week: When to look 

THURSDAY: Another beautiful morning with it being quiet and cool. Sunny skies for the afternoon as temperatures climb to the middle 80s. Clouds increase at night. 

FRIDAY: Warm and muggy conditions return with highs in the low 80s. Scattered showers and storms develop and we could see stronger winds and heavy rain towards evening. 

>> County-by-County Weather

SATURDAY: Muggy with more active weather for the day. It’ll be partly to mostly cloudy as highs peak in the low 80s. Some afternoon showers and storms redevelop, but activity will taper off at night. 

SUNDAY: Some dry time early with partly to mostly cloudy skies. Scattered showers and storms redevelop again in the late afternoon/evening. High reach near 80 degrees. 

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Court docs: Man stood over police officer and shot him 10 times

Published: Monday, July 16, 2018 @ 3:55 PM
Updated: Monday, July 16, 2018 @ 3:55 PM

Police were on the scene of a shooting in Weymouth, Massachusetts, where a policeman died from his wounds.
Weymouth Police Department
Police were on the scene of a shooting in Weymouth, Massachusetts, where a policeman died from his wounds.(Weymouth Police Department)

A man who was sought for driving erratically stood over a Massachusetts police officer and shot him 10 times in the head and chest, according to witness statements recorded in court documents. 

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Emanuel Lopes is accused of shooting and killing two people Sunday after he was allegedly observed driving a BMW erratically and crashing into another car. 

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Witnesses told police Lopes was speeding and swerving between lanes before he apparently crashed into a stationary vehicle. A witness in that vehicle told police Lopes got out of the car, mumbled “I’m sorry,” and ran off on foot. 

According to police, Officer Michael Chesna responded to reports of Lopes’ driving. Court documents indicate Chesna found Lopes as he was throwing a rock through a window. 

When Chesna approached Lopes, court documents say Lopes picked up a large rock and charged at the officer. Police say when Lopes hit Chesna with the rock, Chesna fell to the ground and dropped his gun. 

According to court documents, Lopes picked up the gun and shot Chesna 10 times as he stood over him. Witnesses told police Lopes stood over Chesna and shot him five times in the head and five times in the chest. 

Police say Lopes then moved through the neighborhood, pausing in one backyard to shoot through a large picture window on the back of home. According to police, one of those shots hit a 77-year-old woman named Vera Adams in the chest, killing her

Lopes was eventually arrested and police say there were no bullets left in the gun. 

According to the Norfolk County District Attorney's Office, Lopes was slated to be arraigned Monday afternoon from his hospital bed, but was not medically able to be arraigned. 

The arraignment was expected to take place Tuesday. 

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Nonprofit helping pay off mortgage on slain police officer's family home

Published: Wednesday, July 18, 2018 @ 3:33 AM

This Dec. 10, 2012 photo shows Weymouth Police Officer Michael C. Chesna in Weymouth, Mass. (Gary Higgins/The Quincy Patriot Ledger via AP)
Gary Higgins/AP
This Dec. 10, 2012 photo shows Weymouth Police Officer Michael C. Chesna in Weymouth, Mass. (Gary Higgins/The Quincy Patriot Ledger via AP)(Gary Higgins/AP)

A nonprofit organization has announced a major donation to help pay off the mortgage on a slain Massachusetts police officer's family home.

Weymouth police Sgt. Michael Chesna, 42, was shot and killed Sunday in the line of duty. 

>> On Weymouth police Officer Michael Chesna posthumously promoted to sergeant

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The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation is providing the first $100,000 toward the mortgage and is challenging others to support the family through the initiative.

Any money raised exceeding the mortgage will go directly to Chesna's wife and two children.

>> On Court docs: Man stood over Weymouth officer and shot him 10 times

The foundation, established in memory of a fallen 9/11 firefighter, supports military and first responders who are killed in the line of duty. In addition to his service with the Weymouth Police Department, Chesna was also a military veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Frank Siller, chairman and CEO of the foundation, will join Weymouth police Chief Richard Grimes at the Weymouth Police Department at 3 p.m. Wednesday to make the official announcement.

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More comfortable weather on the way, weekend showers expected

Published: Tuesday, July 17, 2018 @ 3:19 AM
Updated: Wednesday, July 18, 2018 @ 2:36 AM

Storms return by the weekend.

>> LISTEN: Cloudy with a Chance of Podcast: A podcast for weather fans 


  • Lower humidity through midweek
  • Temperatures rise for the end of the week
  • Unsettled weather pattern for the weekend

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>> 5-Day Forecast


Overnight: A comfortable night in the forecast with clear skies and temperatures dropping to around 60 degrees by morning.

>> LIVE Doppler 7 HD Interactive Radar

Wednesday: Lots of sunshine is expected with the humidity remaining low. It will be pleasantly warm with highs in the lower 80s.

Thursday: A warmer day is expected with some high clouds around mixed with sunshine. Highs will rebound into the middle 80s.

>> County-by-County Weather 

Friday: Clouds will be on the increase through the day with a chance for showers and storms developing by late afternoon. Highs will be in the middle 80s with humidity on the rise.

Saturday: Numerous showers and storms are expected, especially during the afternoon and early evening. One or two stronger storms will be possible. Highs will be in the lower 80s.

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Sunday: A mix of clouds and sunshine will wrap up the weekend with a continued chance for a few showers or storms. Highs will hold in the lower 80s.

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