Locating air leaks in manned spacecraft using structure-borne noise
All manned spacecraft are vulnerable to leaks generated by micrometeorite or debris impacts. Methods for locating such leaks using leak-generated, structure-borne ultrasonic noise are discussed and demonstrated. Cross-correlations of ultrasonic noise waveforms from a leak into vacuum are used to find the location of the leak. Four methods for sensing and processing leak noise have been developed and tested and each of these can be used to reveal the leak location. The methods, based on phased-array, distributed sensor, and dual sensor approaches, utilize the propagation patterns of guided ultrasonic Lamb waves in the spacecraft skin structure to find the source or direction of the leak noise. It is shown that each method can be used to successfully locate the leak to within a few millimeters on a 0.6-m2 aluminum plate. The relative merits of the four methods are discussed.
This article was originally published in Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 121, no. 6 (2007): 3484–3492, doi:10.1121/1.2722051.