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In-Space Inspection Needs: Opportunities for advanced NDE tools such as x-ray CT for additively manufactured parts, in-situ resource utilization, geological applications, and more It is now 50 years since the first human presence on the surface of the Moon and as we strive to return with women and men in the next few years, we embrace new technical challenges, goals, and innovative solutions to address 21st century objectives. These new ambitions carry fresh challenges and risks, with the field of NDE playing an increasingly more relevant role towards meeting these essential goals. In recent years, more advanced NDE tools have triggered a rapid expansion of applications for the space industry. In particular, x-ray Computed Tomography (CT) has proven to be a trusted and powerful asset for spaceflight hardware inspection, as well as applied geotechnical analysis for natural materials (e.g., rocks, soils) for NASA and across industry. However, such methods have yet to be extended to “deep space” applications such as those that are now part of the US National Space Policy Directive (SPD-1) and the accelerated push to return humans to the Moon (i.e., Artemis). For this reason, advancing these powerful Earth-based laboratory methods via new technologies, integrated computational solutions, and creative engineering approaches is directly aligned with national space policies, as well as with multiple NASA Strategic Plan priorities. The use of x-ray CT at scales as fine as a few microns or smaller can identify spacecraft part failure modes relevant to quality assurance for flight hardware and AM parts such as those recently developed for ISS. This technology could also identify valuable metallic phases within geological materials (i.e., rocks or drill cores), enabling resource-relevant triage of samples for In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) and high science value sample return to Earth laboratories. There is also significant application for 3D imaging tools for medical use such as inspecting protective gear as well as bone density degradation studies which are critical in establishing a sustained presence in space. Timing for development of these tools for space use is advantageous as we prepare for new opportunities in the next few years and recognize recent commercial technology advancements which make it feasible. Moreover, as NASA strives to take full advantage of developments in AM technologies, including In-Space Manufacturing (ISM), it is widely recognized that NDE tools such as CT will play an essential role in acceptance of these parts for widespread use. New in-space 3D inspection tools with complimentary technology such as AI-based automated feature recognition (accelerated by machine learning), rapid compositional analysis, and advanced sample manipulation, would be a game-changing step toward a new class of crew-based laboratory sensors once human outposts on the Moon are established.
Document ID
Document Type
Justin S. Jones
(Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, Maryland, United States)
James Garvin
(Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, Maryland, United States)
Eric Burke
(Langley Research Center Hampton, Virginia, United States)
Jennifer Sietins
(United States Army Research Laboratory Adelphi, Maryland, United States)
Erin Lanigan
(Marshall Space Flight Center Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, United States)
Date Acquired
July 29, 2021
Subject Category
Lunar And Planetary Science And Exploration
Engineering (General)
Meeting Information
16th International Symposium on Nondestructive Characterization of Materials(Baltimore, MD)
Funding Number(s)
WBS: 817091.40.22.51
Distribution Limits
Portions of document may include copyright protected material.
Technical Review
NASA Technical Management
In-Space Non-Destructive Evaluation
X-ray Computed Tomography
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