NASA SBIR 2004 Solicitation


SUBTOPIC TITLE:Inspection and Diagnostics
PROPOSAL TITLE:On-Orbit Health Monitoring and Repair Assessment of Thermal Protection Systems

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Extreme Diagnostics, Inc.
2525 Arapahoe Avenue / Bldg. E4 #262
Boulder ,CO 80302 - 6746
(303) 530 - 1248

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Dr. Robert B.  Owen
2525 Arapahoe Avenue / Bldg. E4 #262
Boulder, CO  80302 -6746
(303) 530 - 1248

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
This SBIR project delivers On-orbit health MoNItoring and repair assessment of THERMal protection systems (OMNI_THERM). OMNI_THERM features impedance-based structural health monitoring (SHM) and uses miniaturized autonomous sensor/actuators to diagnose damage and verify repair efficacy.

Implications of the innovation
Thermal protection systems (TPS) are crucial for crew safety. New techniques of on-orbit assessment of TPS are needed to accelerate Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) development. An autonomous impedance-based SHM system is one of the few viable solutions; Phase I established that this technique can be configured for on-orbit TPS health monitoring.

Technical objectives
We will configure OMNI_THERM for on-orbit SHM through iterative hardware refinements combined with environmental testing and demonstrations at CEV contractors. OMNI_THERM deploys autonomous, wireless, self-powered sensor/actuators. Each sensor/actuator is a self-contained SHM system; this computationally distributed framework minimizes single points-of-failure.

Research description
Phase I produced an advanced prototype and demonstrated SHM on TPS. Phase II includes miniaturization and expands to higher temperature ranges, hybrid structures, and advanced composites.

Anticipated results
Phase II delivers an OMNI_THERM system configured for on-orbit SHM and repair assessment of TPS and other crucial structures. System development includes ruggedization, scaling to multiple sensors, self-diagnostics, high temperature (>500oF) and system validation, and autonomous operation.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Sustainable and flexible space exploration demands reliable structural assessment on-orbit and in-flight to verify hardware integrity, guide maintenance, and verify repair efficacy. Thermal protection systems directly support crew safety and are among the most crucial CEV elements. TPS composite structures are vulnerable to launch impact damage, and micrometeor and orbital debris impacts during flight; they must be continuously monitored and reassessed. Safe, simple, and real-world SHM is needed to inspect and diagnosis advanced TPS and accelerate CEV development. Other applications include wiring inspection, and health monitoring and diagnostics for inflatable/deployable habitats and space structures, aeroshell TPS, and nuclear power systems.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Commercial applications include Homeland Security structural analysis to mitigate threats (preparedness) and assess damage (response), smart structures, and SHM of nuclear plants, aircraft, dams, and bridges. SHM is an emerging industry driven by an aging infrastructure, malicious humans, and the introduction of advanced materials. Government customers include the Federal Highway Administration and the Departments of Defense, Transportation, and Energy. Non-government customers include oil and gas companies, and other crucial-structure custodians. Westinghouse Electric Company (Nuclear Services Division) is our commercialization partner. WEC sees OMNI_THERM SHM applications in nuclear power plants, and provides engineering and marketing support at no cost. Benefits include switching from time-based maintenance to condition-based maintenance. Maintenance is performed when structures actually degrade, rather than when scheduled; this produces major cost savings and increases safety.

Form Printed on 08-01-05 13:52