Maintaining proper operation is crucial in safety-critical settings such as space-going vehicles, launch operations, and aeronautics applications. Should abnormal conditions be encountered, it is desirable to not only detect these early on, but to predict when the system will no longer meet operational specifications. Operational functionality is provided by the science of prognostics, an engineering discipline that focuses on predicting the remaining useful life of components, subsystems, or systems. Prognostics can be accomplished by modeling the underlying physics of a component as well as the anticipated damage propagation.
What Does NASA Do?
The Prognostics Center of Excellence (PCoE) at NASA Ames Research Center provides an umbrella for prognostic technology development, specifically addressing prognostic technology gaps within the application areas of aeronautics and space exploration. The common thread among the various avenues of prognostic technology development is the investigation of physics-of-failure at the component level. Modeling dam- age initiation and propagation at this level is a key element in describing component health. Just as important is the investment of resources into algorithm development to provide the estimates for remaining component life and for uncertainty management.
The PCoE is currently investigating damage propagation mechanisms on select safety-critical actuators for transport-class aircraft, damage mechanisms on aircraft wiring insulation, and damage propagation mechanisms for critical electrical and electronic components in avionic equipment. NASA is also in the process of extending a test bed that will allow the comparative analysis of different prognostic algorithms.
What are the Potential Commercial Applications?
Prognostics and health management solutions are envisioned to play a major role in complex systems of the future to increase both uptime and contain cost. There are almost no limits to the areas of potential application, which include aerospace systems, medical equipment, industrial process plants, terrestrial transportation systems, oil and gas industries, renewable energy systems, structures, electronics, biohazard detection, and many more.
What Are NASA’s Needs?
NASA Ames welcomes industry partners to collaborate in the development of technology solutions for prognostics. Particular areas of interest include validation and verification, uncertainty management, post-prognostic reasoning, and automated contingency management.