On July 26th, the space shuttle Discovery blasted off from NASA's Kennedy Space Centre on a historic mission that marked the shuttle program's first launch in more than two years. During that period, NASA has worked intensively on integrating new technologies to increase the safety of the Discovery shuttle. One major new feature is the addition of a laser camera system (LCS) on the Canadarm. The LCS, developed by the Canadian company Neptec, will be deployed to inspect for tiny fractures on the leading edges of the wings and the nose cap which are covered in Reinforced Carbon-Carbon material.
The PolyWorks software suite, from the Canadian company InnovMetric Software, will be used as a key component for interpreting the millions of points collected by the LCS. Following a preliminary analysis performed in Neptec’s proprietary application, PolyWorks will recreate 3D models of the scanned areas. If areas of potential damage are identified, PolyWorks tools will be used to measure the size (depth, circumference, volume) of the cracks and holes. This valuable information will help specialists at the NASA Mission Center to assess the risk of these affected areas, and to determine a strategy for their repair.
The cooperation between NASA and InnovMetric Software dates back to early 1997, when PolyWorks was intensively used for the “Mars Pathfinder Mission”. At that time, NASA specialists used PolyWorks to prepare 3D models of the Martian surface for NASA’s website.