Shuttle Thermal Protection System Tiles
NASA is evaluating the use of the Picometrix terahertz instrumentation to measure the tiles
of the shuttle heat shield. As the shuttle ages, corrosion can form under
the tiles potentially causing them to detach.
By examining the layers which attach the tiles to the orbiter, NASA can determine which tiles to replace and which tiles are still in good working order.
NASA is also looking at using the terahertz system for determining the health of ultra-high pressure gas tanks used for attitude adjustment rockets. These tanks are wrapped in Kevlar fiber and a rupture would cause the loss of the orbiter. Terahertz imaging is able to detect broken fibers in the pressure mantle, allowing the integrity of the tank to be determined.