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24 July 2001 Continuous health monitoring of Graphite Epoxy Motorcases (GEM)
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Following the explosion of Delta 241 (IIR-1) on January 17th, 1997, the failure investigation board concluded that the Graphite Epoxy Motorcases (GEM's) should be inspected for damage just prior to launch. Subsequent investigations and feedback from industry led to an Aerospace Corporation proposal to instrument the entire fleet of GEM's with a continuous health monitoring system. The period of monitoring would extend from the initial acceptance testing through final erection on the launch pad. As this proposal demonstrates, (along with the increasing use of advanced composite materials in aircraft, automobiles, military hardware, and aerospace components such as rocket motorcases) a sizable need for composite health assessment measures exist. Particularly where continuous monitoring is required for the detection of damage from impacts and other sources of high mechanical and thermal stresses. Even low-momentum impacts can lead to barely visible impact damage (BVID), corresponding to a significant weakening of the composite. This damage, undetectable by visual inspection, can in turn lead to sudden and catastrophic failure when the material is subjected to a normal operating load. There is perhaps no system with as much potential for truly catastrophic failure as a rocket motor. We will present an update on our ongoing efforts with the United States Air Force Delta II Program Office, and The Aerospace Corporation. This will cover the development of a local, portable, surface-mounted, fiberoptic sensor based impact damage monitor designed to operate on a Delta II GEM during transport, storage, and handling. This system is designed to continuously monitor the GEMs, to communicate wirelessly with base stations and maintenance personnel, to operate autonomously for extended periods, and to fit unobtrusively on the GEM itself.
© (2001) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
Richard David Finlayson, David T. Schaafsma, H. Warren Shen, Mark F. Carlos, Ronnie K. Miller, and Brent Shepherd "Continuous health monitoring of Graphite Epoxy Motorcases (GEM)", Proc. SPIE 4335, Advanced Nondestructive Evaluation for Structural and Biological Health Monitoring, (24 July 2001);

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