Original Date: 04/26/1999
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Information : Optical Plume Anomaly Detection
The Optical Plume Anomaly Detection (OPAD) is a system that analyzes and characterizes emitted spectrum from rocket plumes by monitoring the ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared (IR) regions of the spectrum. Through the detection of metals in the exhaust plume, information relative to the degradation of hardware can be gathered and used for readiness and maintenance decisions. Although spectrum analysis was commonplace in the jet engine industry, the size and weight of the monitoring devices excluded this technology from the space industry. Today, the instrumentation is much smaller and lighter.
In 1986, Marshall Space Flight Center’s (MSFC’s) engineering staff began investigating the use of spectrum analysis as a possible method of determining the readiness status of rocket engines. This method is expected to foster rapid decisions, independent of other physical inspections, regarding an engine’s readiness. The Center is developing the OPAD in three phases: Phase A Concept proven with test stand off-mounted optics and spectrometer using baseline software.
Phase B Feasibility proven with test nozzle mounted optics and vehicle mounted commercial-off-the- shelf (COTS) spectrometer, and complete/integrate data software modules and analysis package.
Phase C Space shuttle flight experiment scheduled for mid-2000 and use on subsequent space shuttle flights.
In Phase A, MSFC collaborated with universities, Air Force/AEDC, and other NASA organizations to define goals, identify problems to be solved, decide what skills were needed, and determine the overall methodology and processes needed to address hardware and data analysis tools. In Phase B, the use of COTS hardware proved the feasibility of being able to mount the system on flight hardware due to small and light instrumentation. Phase C is now being planned with flights on space shuttle missions starting in mid-2000.
The OPAD has proved to be a successful method of monitoring the status of a rocket engine by studying the existence of anomalous material in the engine plume. This method has been approved for space shuttle missions, and will enable MSFC engineers to make more informed decisions regarding maintenance and engine readiness.
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