A system is proposed that can track the AE and RF energy dispersion that is created when a vehicle is impacted by a projectile at hyper velocity. This same device can measure the time of arrival of the wave front at transducers placed throughout the vehicle. Using the known velocity of the energy in the skin of the vehicle, the system can calculate the exact point of impact. Furthermore, Phase I testing has shown that the energy measured by sensors on the structure can accurately provide a binary answer of whether the structure has been breached or not. The measurement of a second parameter can help to eliminate false positives and maximize system reliability. The sensors for this system can be mounted on either the inside or the outside of the structure. This significantly increases the flexibility of integrating the system with host vehicles.
The primary NASA applications for the HVI Assessment System for TPS include determining damage to commercial crew vehicles (CCV). It will be useful for other space vehicles such as Orion that contain a Thermal Protection System (TPS). It will also be useful for spacecraft that must be monitored to mitigate the effects of hypervelocity impact (HVI) damage. This includes the ISS and the Space Gateway. Finally, it can be adapted using different sensors for inflatable habitats in space and on the surface of celestial bodies.
Private space companies can benefit from this system for assessing damage during launch, orbit, parking at the ISS, deep space travel, and entry into planetary atmospheres (earth, mars, etc.). Satellites (communication, science, military) can also benefit from this capability in order to help assess damage, evaluate cause, and determine remaining useful life after impacts occur.