A system is proposed that can track the AE and RF energy dispersion that is created when a vehicle is impacted by a projectile at hyper velocity. This same device can measure the time of arrival of the charge wave front at transducers placed throughout the vehicle. Using the known velocity of the energy in the skin of the vehicle, the system can calculate the exact point of impact. Furthermore, characteristics of the energy measured by sensors on the back side of the structure indicate that the system can accurately provide a binary answer of whether the structure has been breached or not. Initial data show that false positives are not likely. However, using a second parameter can help to eliminate false positives and maximize system reliability.
The primary NASA applications for the HVI Assessment System for TPS include determining damage to commercial crew vehicles (CCV) and other space vehicles that contain a Thermal Protection System (TPS) for atmospheric re-entry. It will also be useful for other spacecraft and space structures that must be monitored to mitigate the effects of hypervelocity impact (HVI) damage.
Private space companies can benefit from damage location and assessment systems residing on their spacecraft for assessing damage during launch, orbit, parking at the ISS, deep space travel, and entry into planetary atmospheres (earth, mars, etc.). Satellites (communication, science, military) could also benefit from this capability in order to help assess damage, evaluate cause, and determine remaining useful life after impacts occur.