The UV-Vis spectroscopic system for plume diagnostics monitors rocket engine health by using several analytical tools developed at Stennis Space Center (SSC), including the rocket plume spectroscopy simulation code (RPSSC), to identify and quantify the alloys from the metallic elements observed in engine plumes. Because the hydrocarbon-fueled rocket engine is likely to contain C2, CO, CH, CN, and NO in addition to OH and H2O, the relevant electronic bands of these molecules in the spectral range of 300 to 850 nm in the RPSSC have been included.

SSC incorporated several enhancements and modifications to the original line-by-line spectral simulation computer program implemented for plume spectral data analysis and quantification in 1994. These changes made the program applicable to the Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) and the Diagnostic Testbed Facility Thruster (DTFT) exhaust plume spectral data. Modifications included updating the molecular and spectral parameters for OH, adding spectral parameter input files optimized for the 10 elements of interest in the spectral range from 320 to 430 nm and linking the output to graphing and analysis packages. Additionally, the ability to handle the non-uniform wavelength interval at which the spectral computations are made was added. This allowed a precise superposition of wavelengths at which the spectral measurements have been made with the wavelengths at which the spectral computations are done by using the line-by-line (LBL) code.

To account for hydrocarbon combustion products in the plume, which might interfere with detection and quantification of metallic elements in the spectral region of 300 to 850 nm, the spectroscopic code has been enhanced to include the carbon-based combustion species of C2, CO, and CH. In addition, CN and NO have spectral bands in 300 to 850 nm and, while these molecules are not direct products of hydrocarbon-oxygen combustion systems, they can show up if nitrogen or a nitrogen compound is present as an impurity in the propellants and/or these can form in the boundary layer as a result of interaction of the hot plume with the atmosphere during the ground testing of engines. Ten additional electronic band systems of these five molecules have been included into the code. A comprehensive literature search was conducted to obtain the most accurate values for the molecular and the spectral parameters, including Franck-Cordon factors and electronic transition moments for all ten band systems.

For each elemental transition in the RPSSC, six spectral parameters — Doppler broadened line width at half-height, pressure-broadened line width at half-height, electronic multiplicity of the upper state, electronic term energy of the upper state, Einstein transition probability coefficient, and the atomic line center — are required. Input files have been created for ten elements of Ni, Fe, Cr, Co, Cu, Ca, Mn, Al, Ag, and Pd, which retain only relatively moderate to strong transitions in 300 to 430 nm spectral range for each element. The number of transitions in the input files is 68 for Ni; 148 for Fe; 6 for Cr; 87 for Co; 1 for Ca; 3 for Mn; 2 each for Cu, Al, and Ag; and 11 for Pd.

This work was done by Gopal D. Tejwani of Jacobs Technology, Inc. for Stennis Space Center.

Inquiries concerning the technology should be addressed to the Intellectual Property Manager, Stennis Space Center; (228) 688-1929. Refer to SSC-00281, volume and number of this NASA Tech Briefs issue, and the page number.

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This article first appeared in the August, 2010 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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