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The Application of Infrared Thermographic Inspection Techniques to the Space Shuttle Thermal Protection SystemThe Nondestructive Evaluation Sciences Branch at NASA s Langley Research Center has been actively involved in the development of thermographic inspection techniques for more than 15 years. Since the Space Shuttle Columbia accident, NASA has focused on the improvement of advanced NDE techniques for the Reinforced Carbon-Carbon (RCC) panels that comprise the orbiter s wing leading edge. Various nondestructive inspection techniques have been used in the examination of the RCC, but thermography has emerged as an effective inspection alternative to more traditional methods. Thermography is a non-contact inspection method as compared to ultrasonic techniques which typically require the use of a coupling medium between the transducer and material. Like radiographic techniques, thermography can be used to inspect large areas, but has the advantage of minimal safety concerns and the ability for single-sided measurements. Principal Component Analysis (PCA) has been shown effective for reducing thermographic NDE data. A typical implementation of PCA is when the eigenvectors are generated from the data set being analyzed. Although it is a powerful tool for enhancing the visibility of defects in thermal data, PCA can be computationally intense and time consuming when applied to the large data sets typical in thermography. Additionally, PCA can experience problems when very large defects are present (defects that dominate the field-of-view), since the calculation of the eigenvectors is now governed by the presence of the defect, not the "good" material. To increase the processing speed and to minimize the negative effects of large defects, an alternative method of PCA is being pursued where a fixed set of eigenvectors, generated from an analytic model of the thermal response of the material under examination, is used to process the thermal data from the RCC materials. Details of a one-dimensional analytic model and a two-dimensional finite-element model will be presented. An overview of the PCA process as well as a quantitative signal-to-noise comparison of the results of performing both embodiments of PCA on thermographic data from various RCC specimens will be shown. Finally, a number of different applications of this technology to various RCC components will be presented.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Langley Research Center
Document Type
Conference Paper
Cramer, K. E.
(NASA Langley Research Center Hampton, VA, United States)
Winfree, W. P.
(NASA Langley Research Center Hampton, VA, United States)
Date Acquired
September 7, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2005
Subject Category
Spacecraft Design, Testing And Performance
Meeting Information
Meeting: 5th Regional Conference on Non Destructive and Structural Testing
Location: Neuquen
Country: Argentina
Start Date: November 2, 2005
End Date: November 4, 2005
Funding Number(s)
OTHER: 23-376-70-30-05
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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