NASA needed an innovative solution to conduct system assessments of frameworks and to characterize subsystems of interest. This tool would be required to determine anomalies; examine their causes (root-cause analysis); make predictive statements (prognostics); provide intelligent health monitoring with incremental knowledge for working with unknown scenarios; and provide maintenance support for a complex collection of systems, subsystems, and elements in rocket engine test platforms.
To meet this need, the Distributed Rocket Engine Testing Health Monitoring System (DiRETHMS) technology and software toolsets were developed. DiRETHMS enables real-time, online health monitoring and failure detection. It comprises a distributed, modular, scalar, and flexible architecture with efficient and embedded processing at multiple levels (sensor, subsystem, and system) to provide health monitoring.
The foundation of the architecture is a network of Advanced Embedded Smart Sensors (AESS/WTIM) and Health Management Units acting as Network Capable Application Processors (HMaU/NCAP) to provide distributed intelligence. The DiRETHMS architecture enables embedded health monitoring functions (e.g., self-identification, self-diagnostics, and self-calibration), and because a distributed scheme with standardized communication methods is provided, DiRETHMS is also able to satisfy the computational requirements by providing an integrated awareness of the condition of every element of interest. The goal in creating DiRETHMS was to provide innovative, reliable, fully embedded, and intelligent algorithms with an artificial-intelligence-based diagnostic framework, smart sensors (both hardware and software with embedded intelligent functions such as self-healing), IEEE 1451 methods [commands and Transducer Electronic Data Sheets (TEDS)], and a wireless communication framework for health monitoring within a highly distributed system that supports intelligent functions in sensors and system modules with the ability to learn new failures and conditions. While the innovation’s focus is being able to provide a set of novel technologies and software toolsets, it also is capable of being customizable for complex systems, such as reusable liquid rocket engines.
This technology has a wide range of uses for NASA, including space transportation propulsion systems; performing rocket engine ground testing; and health monitoring of other space, lunar, or planetary vehicles/systems. It could also be customized for a wide range of machinery application areas, including the aerospace industry (aircraft engines and turbo-jets), on-ground maintenance, manufacturing, and other applications requiring smart sensors with embedded health monitoring. The tool’s capabilities could also be used for upgrading current (already deployed) assets (e.g. diagnostic systems’ software and sensors). Other potential applications include: (1) embedded autonomous learning and self-expanding pattern recognition (such as for computer vision, hyperspectral imagery analysis, incremental knowledge for health monitoring, etc.); (2) health monitoring of turbines and rotating machinery; (3) intelligent data-acquisition systems for machinery health monitoring; (4) fluid and hydraulic systems (such as cooling systems); (5) motors; (6) pumps; and (7) health monitoring of vehicles and autonomous systems.
Overall, DiRETHMS provides a distributed system with embedded health monitoring functions with the potential to significantly improve the capabilities for rocket engine testing and maintenance operations while reducing costs, and also has the potential opportunity for use in the commercial sector for numerous other monitoring applications.