K Sciences proposes the development of a novel prototype, fiber optic recession and temperature sensor (FORTS) designed specifically to support NASA’s thermal protection systems (TPS) for future planetary missions. This proposal of the FORTS system details an erosion measurement system and method which is capable of precisely determining the change in length of ablative heat shielding and in addition providing an optical measurement of high temperature erosion environments applicable to thermal protection systems in ablative heat shields and solid and liquid rocket motors. The minimally intrusive fiber optic probe can be designed to closely match the TPS ablation properties and extremely elevated temperature environment. The FORTS is capable of continuous, real-time, high-speed, monitoring of the recession rate and ablation zone temperature in entry vehicles, projectiles, and hypersonic flight vehicles. The supporting data acquisition (DAQ) system will be designed to be modular to accommodate various TPS configurations and missions requiring various combinations of sensor inputs. The FORTS system provides an innovative approach to meet NASA’s requirements and is anticipated to perform a continuous recession rate measurement through any TPS thickness, at a length resolution of ±1 mm, an ablation temperature measurement from 600 °C to 4500 °C, with a minimally intrusive sensor probe <500 µm cross-section and post manufacture component installation, and high temperature operation and survivability.
The sensor proposed will provide a method to acutely and directly measure the surface wear, erosion, ablation, etc., in challenging environments. The core mission of NASA often involves development and exploration within these necessary conditions. This may include the proposed application to thermal protective shielding or may also include nozzle erosion, solid rocket fuel regression, and aircraft braking wear.
K Sciences is in discussion with various automobile and tractor trailer brake system manufacturers.