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18 August 2005 Infrared on-orbit inspection of shuttle orbiter reinforced carbon-carbon using solar heating
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Thermographic nondestructive inspection techniques have been shown to provide quantitative, large area damage detection capabilities for the ground inspection of the reinforced carbon-carbon (RCC) used for the wing leading edge of the Shuttle orbiter. The method is non-contacting and able to inspect large areas in a relatively short inspection time. Thermal nondestructive evaluation (NDE) inspections have been shown to be applicable for several applications to the Shuttle in preparation for return to flight, including for inspection of RCC panels during impact testing, and for between-flight orbiter inspections. The focus of this work is to expand the capabilities of the thermal NDE methodology to enable inspection by an astronaut during orbital conditions. The significant limitations of available resources, such as weight and power, and the impact of these limitations on the inspection technique are discussed, as well as the resultant impact on data analysis and processing algorithms. Of particular interest is the impact to the inspection technique resulting from the use of solar energy as a heat source, the effect on the measurements due to working in the vacuum of space, and the effect of changes in boundary conditions, such as radiation losses seen by the material, on the response of the RCC. The resultant effects on detectability limits are discussed.
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P. A. Howell, W. P. Winfree, and K. Elliott Cramer "Infrared on-orbit inspection of shuttle orbiter reinforced carbon-carbon using solar heating", Proc. SPIE 5880, Optical Diagnostics, 588009 (18 August 2005);

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