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Wireless Strain Sensing System for Space Structural Health Monitoring

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Wireless Strain Sensing System for Space Structural Health Monitoring
We propose to use the parabolic flight opportunity to test the Wireless Strain Sensing System(WSS). The proposed payload will enable the rapid assessment of the structures integrity through measurement of strain and vibration response, which is essential for the safety and high performance operation of the space infrastructure, space operation system, etc. The proposed payload will allow the broad application in various NASA highlighted challenge areas, i.e. Space Technology Roadmaps (STRs), including TA 12, TA13, TA01, TA02, and TA08. The variable gravity flight is believed to be the most economical means of advancing the system through TRL 5 in its relevant environment from its current TRL 4.The ongoing demand of the integrated space Vehicle Health Monitoring Systems (VHMS) has been boosted by the increasing global interests in space exploration. Specifically, the wireless sensor has the benefit of reducing the payload and the launch costs. Thus, lots of researchers monitor the fundamental structural physical indicators, i.e. the strain, to study the spacecraft mechanical performance. For space shuttles and spacecraft, the WSS will reveal the impact of acoustics and vibration on vehicle or equipment during launching/ground test. In the Rocket Acoustics Program, NASA used WSS to monitor the structure strength of the Composite Overwrapped Pressure Vessel (COPV). The technology also has the potential to provide scalable static/dynamic monitoring of fatigue and other structural failures. The flight opportunity is expected to advance the current payload TRL level from TRL 4 to TRL 6. The proposed system includes a wireless strain sensor that consumes about 6 mW, a wireless solar energy harvesting unit, a frequency modulation/demodulation unit, and a Data Acquisition Unit (DAQ). To achieve such an ultra-low power operation, a voltage-controlled oscillator (VCO) is used to convert the direct-current (DC) strain signal to a high frequency oscillatory signal. Next, this oscillatory signal is transmitted by an unpowered wireless transponder. A generic solar panel with energy harvesting circuit is used to power the strain sensor node for a short period of time. The frequency demodulation will be implemented as a frequency counter implemented in a microcontroller board (Arduino) and acquired using a PC-based MATLAB program. . The system features ultra-low power consumption, completely wireless sensing, solar powering, and portability. This system is integrated onto portable printed circuit architecture. Although the challenge of extreme operational condition for WSS in space and the strict performance requirements, the application of WSS in space is promising and bears the potential in reduction of costs and payloads with great scalability and sensor flexibility. More »

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