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Proceedings Paper

Shearographic and thermographic nondestructive evaluation of the space shuttle structure and thermal protection systems (TPS)
Author(s): Christopher K. Davis
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Paper Abstract

Shearography and thermography have shown promising results on orbiter structure and external tank (ET) and solid rocket booster (SRB) thermal protection systems (TPS). The orbiter uses a variety of composite structure, the two most prevalent materials being aluminum and graphite-epoxy honeycomb. Both techniques have detected delaminations as small at 0.25 inches diameter in the orbiter payload bay doors graphite-epoxy honeycomb structure. Other applications include the robotic manipulator system (RMS) and the rudder speed brake structure. The ET uses spray-on foam insulation (SOFI) as the TPS and the SRB forward section uses marshall sprayable ablative as the TPS. Debonding SOFI damage to the orbiter 'belly' tile and exposes the ET to thermal loading. Voids in SOFI test panels as small as 0.375 inch were detected in 1.75 inch thick foam using a pressure reduction of not more than 10 inches of water or 0.4 pounds per square inch. Preliminary results of the X33 metallic TPS are presented. Ultrasonic testing approved for orbiter bond integrity testing, is time consuming and problematic. No current non-destructive inspection technique is approved for inspection of ET/SRB TPS or the orbiter RMS honeycomb at Kennedy Space Center. Only visual inspections are routinely performed on orbiter structure. The various successes of these two techniques make them good candidates for the aforementioned applications.

Paper Details

Date Published: 14 November 1996
PDF: 12 pages
Proc. SPIE 2945, Nondestructive Evaluation of Aging Aircraft, Airports, and Aerospace Hardware, (14 November 1996); doi: 10.1117/12.259121
Show Author Affiliations
Christopher K. Davis, NASA Kennedy Space Ctr. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 2945:
Nondestructive Evaluation of Aging Aircraft, Airports, and Aerospace Hardware
Raymond D. Rempt; Alfred L. Broz, Editor(s)

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