Pulse-echo ultrasonic inspection system for in-situ nondestructive inspection of Space Shuttle RCC heat shields.

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Description

The reinforced carbon-carbon (RCC) heat shield components on the Space Shuttle's wings must withstand harsh atmospheric reentry environments where the wing leading edge can reach temperatures of 3,000 F. Potential damage includes impact damage, micro cracks, oxidation in the silicon carbide-to-carbon-carbon layers, and interlaminar disbonds. Since accumulated damage in the thick, carbon-carbon and silicon-carbide layers of the heat shields can lead to catastrophic failure of the Shuttle's heat protection system, it was essential for NASA to institute an accurate health monitoring program. NASA's goal was to obtain turnkey inspection systems that could certify the integrity of the Shuttle heat shields ... continued below

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180 p.

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Roach, Dennis Patrick; Walkington, Phillip D. & Rackow, Kirk A. June 1, 2005.

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Description

The reinforced carbon-carbon (RCC) heat shield components on the Space Shuttle's wings must withstand harsh atmospheric reentry environments where the wing leading edge can reach temperatures of 3,000 F. Potential damage includes impact damage, micro cracks, oxidation in the silicon carbide-to-carbon-carbon layers, and interlaminar disbonds. Since accumulated damage in the thick, carbon-carbon and silicon-carbide layers of the heat shields can lead to catastrophic failure of the Shuttle's heat protection system, it was essential for NASA to institute an accurate health monitoring program. NASA's goal was to obtain turnkey inspection systems that could certify the integrity of the Shuttle heat shields prior to each mission. Because of the possibility of damaging the heat shields during removal, the NDI devices must be deployed without removing the leading edge panels from the wing. Recently, NASA selected a multi-method approach for inspecting the wing leading edge which includes eddy current, thermography, and ultrasonics. The complementary superposition of these three inspection techniques produces a rigorous Orbiter certification process that can reliably detect the array of flaws expected in the Shuttle's heat shields. Sandia Labs produced an in-situ ultrasonic inspection method while NASA Langley developed the eddy current and thermographic techniques. An extensive validation process, including blind inspections monitored by NASA officials, demonstrated the ability of these inspection systems to meet the accuracy, sensitivity, and reliability requirements. This report presents the ultrasonic NDI development process and the final hardware configuration. The work included the use of flight hardware and scrap heat shield panels to discover and overcome the obstacles associated with damage detection in the RCC material. Optimum combinations of custom ultrasonic probes and data analyses were merged with the inspection procedures needed to properly survey the heat shield panels. System features were introduced to minimize the potential for human factors errors in identifying and locating the flaws. The in-situ NDI team completed the transfer of this technology to NASA and USA employees so that they can complete 'Return-to-Flight' certification inspections on all Shuttle Orbiters prior to each launch.

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180 p.

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  • Report No.: SAND2005-3429
  • Grant Number: AC04-94AL85000
  • DOI: 10.2172/923155 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 923155
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc894721

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  • June 1, 2005

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Sept. 27, 2016, 1:39 a.m.

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  • Nov. 30, 2016, 7:02 p.m.

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Roach, Dennis Patrick; Walkington, Phillip D. & Rackow, Kirk A. Pulse-echo ultrasonic inspection system for in-situ nondestructive inspection of Space Shuttle RCC heat shields., report, June 1, 2005; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc894721/: accessed September 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.