X-ray Techniques for NDT and Damage Characterization of Space Materials and Components

Short Description

One of the main challenges to accelerate the acceptance and use of advanced materials (e.g. polymer matrix composites, additively manufactured parts & electrical, electronic and electro-mechanical components) in the European Space Agency (ESA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and commercial space applications is to establish a broadly accepted materials and process quality system, including adequate non-destructive testing (NDT) procedures.

However, to profoundly exploit the advantages of advanced manufacturing for space applications, and to ensure highly reliable parts, new approaches to both manufacturing and non-destructive testing (NDT) are needed. NDT procedures must be able to track unique features such as small scale and deeply enclosed porosity, complex part geometry, and subtle internal features.

Such NDT procedures have to be applicable to various products and processes while being flexible to fulfil materials, design, and test standards encountered throughout the components´ life cycle. These are key preconditions to facilitate the potential of advanced materials, eventually leading to shorter production lead times, less waste, improved cost, maximized properties, and reduced weight.

Contents and Goals

In the course of spaceXCT (FHW, CSEM, AAC, RUAG) we will exploit innovations of advanced X-ray imaging technologies, e.g. high resolution X-ray computed tomography (XCT) and grating interferometer X-ray computed tomography (TLGI-XCT), addressing various problems concerning materials science and material processing in space applications.

Advanced manufacturing and materials are a crucial part of European efforts for strategic non-dependence (ESA Cross-Cutting Initiatives). Both, additively manufactured (AM) parts and polymer matrix composites (PMC) (Technical domain 24: Materials & Processes) and electrical, electronic and electro-mechanical (EEE) components (Technical domain 23: EEE Components and Quality) have high priorities in the ESA technology harmonisation.

We introduce advanced X-ray technology overcoming disadvantages of standard methods ranging from the inspection of thermally induced crack propagation in polymer composites, void growth during load testing of additively manufactured titanium parts, and crack growth in solder joints of ball grid arrays on multilayer printed circuit boards.

The goal of this project is to non-destructively characterize the three-dimensional structure in relation to defect propagation during cyclic material testing in specific PMC, AM, and EEE components. Using advanced X-ray techniques, we will gather detailed information about the amount, type of damage, and propagation of damages that excel existing standard methods, e.g. by detection of sub-pixel micro-cracks.

Expected Results

This information will improve the understanding of fatigue and crack growth in advanced materials eventually influencing design concepts and production parameters for aerospace structures. These efforts are fundamental to establish XCT based qualification and certification protocols for PMC, AM, and EEE flight hardware.

Finally, the cross-cutting approach of spaceXCT complements European space activities simultaneously strengthening Austria´s role as a powerful competitor and competent partner in the space sector in relation to advanced manufacturing and NDT.

Project Partners


FH OÖ Forschungs & Entwicklungs GmbH

Project partner

  • Aerospace & Advanced Composites GmbH
  • RUAG Space GmbH

Contact Address

FH OÖ Forschungs & Entwicklungs GmbH
FH-Prof. PD DI Dr. Johann Kastner
Stelzhamerstraße 23
A-4600 Wels