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Proceedings Paper

Continuous health monitoring of the thermal protection system for future spacecraft
Author(s): Alaina B. Hanlon; Abhijit Deshmukh; Robert W. Hyers
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Paper Abstract

The thermal protection system (TPS) represents the greatest risk factor after propulsion for any transatmospheric mission. Any damage to the TPS leaves the space vehicle vulnerable and could result in the loss of human life as what happened in the Columbia accident. Aboard the current Space Shuttle no system exists to notify the astronauts or ground control if the thermal protection system has been damaged. The goal of this project is to add self-diagnostic capability to future spacecraft through the use of a fiber-optic network embedded in the TPS. This system of sensors would allow for the detection of region fracture, optical temperature measurement at different depths within the region, communication with neighboring regions, and detection of communication loss. The hardware that would be added to each region consists of a radiation-hardened microcontroller, fiber-optic sensors and power. Each region would have the ability of reporting its own damage as well as reporting a loss of communication with any of its neighboring regions. Such a network would provide continuous health monitoring of the TPS in real-time. The developed intelligent region technologies are readily adaptable to ablative thermal protective systems.

Paper Details

Date Published: 11 April 2006
PDF: 8 pages
Proc. SPIE 6174, Smart Structures and Materials 2006: Sensors and Smart Structures Technologies for Civil, Mechanical, and Aerospace Systems, 617431 (11 April 2006); doi: 10.1117/12.658712
Show Author Affiliations
Alaina B. Hanlon, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst (United States)
Abhijit Deshmukh, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst (United States)
National Science Foundation (United States)
Robert W. Hyers, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 6174:
Smart Structures and Materials 2006: Sensors and Smart Structures Technologies for Civil, Mechanical, and Aerospace Systems
Masayoshi Tomizuka; Chung-Bang Yun; Victor Giurgiutiu, Editor(s)

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