The Aeronautical Sciences Project under NASA’s Fundamental Aeronautics Program is extremely interested in the development of novel measurement technologies, such as optical surface measurements in the internal parts of a flow path, for in situ health monitoring of gas turbine engines. In situ health monitoring has the potential to detect flaws, i.e. cracks in key components, such as engine turbine disks, before the flaws lead to catastrophic failure. In the present study, a cross-correlation imaging technique is investigated in a proof-of-concept study as a possible optical technique to measure the radial growth and strain field on an already cracked sub-scale turbine engine disk under loaded conditions in the NASA Glenn Research Center’s High Precision Rotordynamics Laboratory. The optical strain measurement technique under investigation offers potential fault detection using an applied high-contrast random speckle pattern and imaging the pattern under unloaded and loaded conditions with a CCD camera. Spinning the cracked disk at high speeds induces an external load, resulting in a radial growth of the disk of approximately 50.0-μm in the flawed region and hence, a localized strain field. When imaging the cracked disk under static conditions, the disk will be undistorted; however, during rotation the cracked region will grow radially, thus causing the applied particle pattern to be ‘shifted’. The resulting particle displacements between the two images will then be measured using the two-dimensional cross-correlation algorithms implemented in standard Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) software to track the disk growth, which facilitates calculation of the localized strain field. In order to develop and validate this optical strain measurement technique an initial proof-of-concept experiment is carried out in a controlled environment. Using PIV optimization principles and guidelines, three potential speckle patterns, for future use on the rotating disk, are developed and investigated in the controlled experiment. A range of known shifts are induced on the patterns; reference and data images are acquired before and after the induced shift, respectively, and the images are processed using the crosscorrelation algorithms in order to determine the particle displacements. The effectiveness of each pattern at resolving the known shift is evaluated and discussed in order to choose the most suitable pattern to be implemented onto a rotating disk in the Rotordynamics Lab. Although testing on the rotating disk has not yet been performed, the driving principles behind the development of the present optical technique are based upon critical aspects of the future experiment, such as the amount of expected radial growth, disk analysis, and experimental design and are therefore addressed in the paper.