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Proceedings Paper

Continuous health monitoring of graphite epoxy motorcases (GEM)
Author(s): Richard David Finlayson; Marco A. Luzio; Ronnie K. Miller; Adrian A. Pollock
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Paper Abstract

With the increasing use of advanced composite materials in aircraft, automobiles, military hardware, and aerospace composites (such as rocket motorcases) a sizable need for composite health assessment measures exist, particularly where there is risk of failure due to high mechanical and thermal stresses. For most epoxy-based laminate composites, even low-momentum impacts can lead to "barely visible impact damage" (BVD), corresponding to a significant weakening of the composite. This weakening can lead to sudden and catastrophic failure when the material is subjected to normal operating loads. Following the explosion of Delta 241 (IIR-1) on Jaunary 17th, 1997, the failure investigation board concluded that an entire fleet of Graphite Epoxy Motorcases (GEMs) should be instrumented with a health monitoring system. This system would provide continuous structural health data on the GEM from initial acceptance testing through final erection on the launch pad. The result presented here contribute significantly to the understanding of the acoustic properties of the GEM casing, and make a substantial advancement in the theoretical phase of the source location algorithm development. When the system is complete it will continuously monitor the structural health of the GEMs, communicate wirelessly with base stations, operate autonomously for extended periods, and fit unobtrusively on the GEM itself.

Paper Details

Date Published: 1 August 2003
PDF: 12 pages
Proc. SPIE 5046, Nondestructive Evaluation and Health Monitoring of Aerospace Materials and Composites II, (1 August 2003); doi: 10.1117/12.484100
Show Author Affiliations
Richard David Finlayson, Physical Acoustics Corp. (United States)
Marco A. Luzio, Physical Acoustics Corp. (United States)
Ronnie K. Miller, Physical Acoustics Corp. (United States)
Adrian A. Pollock, Physical Acoustics Corp. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 5046:
Nondestructive Evaluation and Health Monitoring of Aerospace Materials and Composites II
Andrew L. Gyekenyesi; Peter J. Shull, Editor(s)

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