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Proceedings Paper

Thermographic nondestructive testing (TNDT) of honeycomb composite structural parts of Atlas space launch vehicles
Author(s): Douglas D. Burleigh; David R. Kuhns; Scott D. Cowell; James E. Engel
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Paper Abstract

The thrust structure at the aft end of the Atlas space launch vehicle is a composite sandwich comprised of aluminum honeycomb core with fiberglass/phenolic face sheets. The surface area of this structure is approximately 600 ft2. In 1992, General Dynamics Space Systems Division (GDSS) began using thermographic nondestructive testing (TNDT) for quality verification of these complex composite parts. TNDT has been used on these parts during manufacture and assembly, and on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral. The NDT technique used on these parts since their design in 1957 was `coin tap.' Compared to this method, TNDT provides a greatly improved inspection in less time and at a lower cost. A heat gun with a diffuser attachment is used to heat the inspection area while the area is monitored thermographically. TNDT is a rapid, remote, non-contact, highly portable, real-time scanning technique that can provide a well-documented video record of subsurface structural details including facesheet disbonds and skin delaminations. A specification and test procedure has been written, equipment has been procured, and personnel have been trained and certified. TNDT is a production test method at GDSS.

Paper Details

Date Published: 21 March 1994
PDF: 12 pages
Proc. SPIE 2245, Thermosense XVI: An International Conference on Thermal Sensing and Imaging Diagnostic Applications, (21 March 1994); doi: 10.1117/12.171164
Show Author Affiliations
Douglas D. Burleigh, General Dynamics Corp. (United States)
David R. Kuhns, General Dynamics Corp. (United States)
Scott D. Cowell, General Dynamics Corp. (United States)
James E. Engel, General Dynamics Corp. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 2245:
Thermosense XVI: An International Conference on Thermal Sensing and Imaging Diagnostic Applications
John R. Snell, Editor(s)

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