A new ‘sensory skin’ by NASA will detect the damage outside spacecraft in real time


A novel invention by NASA scientists seems like a “sensory skin,” showing up signs of damage to spacecraft exterior environment in real time.
A new 'sensory skin' by NASA will detect the damage outside spacecraft in real time

If this becomes successful the technology can be applied to satellites, aircraft and even other worldly habitats, for instance, a human-built structure on the lunar or Martian surface.

Damage detector at work

The orbital debris, micrometeoroids traveling toward spacecraft at speeds of 17,5000 miles per hour just in low-Earth orbit or more than 24,000 miles per hour for lunar and deep space trips. This could pose risk to the physical structure and integrity of spacecraft.

The space junk debris that has hit the cupola of the International Space Station previous year has caused a tiny window crack? An image revealed a 7-millimeter (0.28-inch) circular chip with possibly a paint flake or tiny metal fragment, with the strange blackness of space acting as the crack’s background.

The latest NASA invention seeks to combat issues like this and worse others. It uses a series of different technologies to develop circuits printed on thin layers and that can be integrated into the spacecraft structure.

As something pierces a space vehicle’s hull, composed of the first layer or two, actual capabilities provide passenger-astronauts limited options to detect damage. Such techniques at present need a camera check or an astronaut’s spacewalk in order to check and determine the damage until a leak occurs and removed the alarms, as a result, penetrates all way through the spacecraft.

The new “sensory skin,” flaunts different systems ranging from low-voltage electrical circuits printed on Kapton thermal insulation film to damage-tracking software.

Can be used for commercial production and other related purposes

The scientists are looking forward to making the manufacturing of Flexible Damage Detection System very efficient. Hence, the company can be replicated for commercial production and use.

The scientists, as well as engineers, have shown a 6-by-6-inch sensory panel attached to wires and a monitoring computer system. They hope to join the square pieces together like a quilt to generate a solid sensor network.

In near future, the system also seems to be promising for estimating the damage to the exteriors of airplanes or planned Martian habitats.