Project Description

Structural health monitoring (SHM) plays a crucial role in the safe operation of manned Space vehicles. Damage to a vehicle's thermal protection system (TPS) can have severe consequences as evidenced by the Columbia accident in 2003 with the loss of seven astronauts upon re-entry into Earth's atmosphere. NASA and its partners are currently designing the Shuttle Orbiter replacement vehicle, Orion, to extend human exploration to the Moon, Mars and beyond. A typical operational scenario for the Orion module is to possibly remain docked at the International Space Station (ISS) for up to six months. One of the primary risks identified while the Crew Exploration Vehicle is docked with ISS is damage to the TPS from micrometeoroid and orbital debris (MMOD) impacts. The goal of this interdisciplinary project is to develop thinfilm sensing technology (flexible printed circuit board sensors) for implementation as an impact damage locator on critical areas of Orion's TPS. The project will require electrical design, mechanical design, finite element analysis and data acquisition software development. The project team will deliver a prototype sensing system for hypervelocity impact testing at the White Sands Test Facility, White Sands, New Mexico. A variety of sensing implementation scenarios will be investigated such as fore body heat shield sensing, back shell TPS sensing, and integration with multilayer insulation.

The team will be comprised of six students. The actual hardware development will include printed circuit board data acquisition, including hardware, software and layout, for multiple test articles at White Sands Hypervelocity Impact Range. Also mechanically there would need to be an enclosure to protect the electronics from the projectile debris, FEA, test model assembly, adhesive research and testing. There are many ways to test these systems at U of I, it could be as simple as shooting a bb gun at the sensor grid. It is also easy to simulate hits using switches instead of the sensor grid.