Proceedings PaperThermographic testing used on the X-33 space launch vehicle program by BFGoodrich Aerospace
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The X-33 program is a team effort sponsored by NASA under Cooperative Agreement NCC8-115, and led by the Lockheed Martin Corporation. Team member BFGoodrich Aerospace Aerostructures Group (formerly Rohr) is responsible for design, manufacture, and integration of the Thermal Protection System (TPS) of the X-33 launch vehicle. The X-33 is a half-scale, experimental prototype of a vehicle called RLV (Reusable Launch Vehicle) or VentureStarTM, an SSTO (single stage to orbit) vehicle, which is a proposed successor to the aging Space Shuttle. Thermographic testing has been employed by BFGoodrich Aerospace Aerostructures Group for a wide variety of uses in the testing of components of the X-33. Thermographic NDT (TNDT) has been used for inspecting large graphite- epoxy/aluminum honeycomb sandwich panels used on the Leeward Aeroshell structure of the X-33. And TNDT is being evaluated for use in inspecting carbon-carbon composite parts such as the nosecap and wing leading edge components. Pulsed Infrared Testing (PIRT), a special form of TNDT, is used for the routine inspection of sandwich panels made of brazed inconel honeycomb and facesheets. In the developmental and qualification testing of sub-elements of the X-33, thermography has been used to monitor (1) Arc Jet tests at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain view, CA and NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX, (2) High Temperature (wind) Tunnel Tests (HTT) at Nasa Langley Research Center in Langley, VA, and (3) Hot Gas Tests at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL.