Physical Sciences Inc. (PSI) and Auburn University propose to complete development of a Smart Sensor Module (SSM) to enable wireless sensing capabilities in rocket propulsion systems. The SSM is an electronics interface designed to connect to trusted, flight-qualified, and commercially available sensors without altering the measurement technique. At each sensor location, the SSM serves as a node in a wireless mesh network, allowing each node to transmit and receive data while providing onboard computing for real time decision making. The SSM increases NASA’s capabilities by eliminating labor-intensive tasks such as routing and securing cables, and will improve sensor accessibility in locations that are difficult to diagnose.
In Phase I, PSI created a workhorse SSM capable of wireless communication in a mesh network, while Auburn’s aggregation methods were used to integrate the PSI sensor network with a user friendly software interface. Multiple SSMs were built and demonstrated in a single wireless network, simultaneously transmitting pressure and temperature data to the gateway with synchronized time stamps.
In Phase II, the SSM hardware design will be advanced to the final SSM product size and weight, and the integrated network will be demonstrated on one of PSI’s rocket engine test stands. This program will result in a final product at the conclusion of the Phase II program, offering a low risk, near-term transition to NASA and commercial propulsion facilities.
Successful demonstration of a smart, wireless sensor network will have significant applicability to ground testing and flight missions for NASA. Reductions in labor assigned to the design, assembly, and implementation of sensor systems will lead to significant cost savings. Using SSM’s with sensors that have flight heritage reduces the risk of installing the network in existing systems. Wireless sensors allow for diagnostics in previously inaccessible locations and smart sensors enable decentralized decision-making, making NASA systems safer.
The commercial space industry and DoD can use the expanded diagnostics and cost savings offered by intelligent sensor networks in their own propulsion systems. Power and energy industries have similar needs for real-time networks of sensors capable of high-acquisition rates. The proposed technology can be used in aircraft or oil and gas systems that require data from difficult to access areas.