Integrated Fiber Optic Structural Health Sensors for Inflatable Space Habitats
Inflatable space habitats offer many advantages for future space missions; however, the long term integrity of these flexible structures is a major concern in harsh space environments. Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) of these structures is essential to ensure safe operation, provide early warnings of damage, and measure structural changes over long periods of time. To address this problem, the authors have integrated distributed fiber optic strain sensors to measure loading and to identify the occurrence and location of damage in the straps and webbing used in the structural restraint layer. The fiber optic sensors employed use Rayleigh backscatter combined with optical frequency domain reflectometry to enable measurement of strain every 0.65 mm (0.026 inches) along the sensor. The Kevlar woven straps that were tested exhibited large permanent deformation during initial cycling and continued to exhibit hysteresis
thereafter, but there was a consistent linear relationship between the sensor’s measurement and the actual strain applied. Damage was intentionally applied to a tensioned strap, and the distributed strain measurement clearly identified a change in the strain profile centered on the location of the damage. This change in structural health was identified at a loading that was less than half of the ultimate loading that caused a structural failure. This sensing technique will be used to enable integrated SHM sensors to detect loading and damage in future inflatable space habitat structures.
Osgar John Ohanian, Naman Garg, and Matthew A. Castellucci, “Integrated fiber optic structural health sensors for inflatable space habitats”, Proc. SPIE 10172, March 25, 2017. doi:10.1117/12.2260106