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Langley Camera Will Go on Space Walk
Atlantis is scheduled for STS-121, the second of two dedicated Return to Flight missions. During that mission, space-walking astronauts will demonstrate a Langley-developed infrared (IR) camera to non-destructively examine the wing leading edge.

Infrared camera developed by Langley to examine the leading edge of the Shuttle's wings for subsurface damage

Image above: Astronauts will use a hand-held infrared camera during the STS-121 mission to demonstrate that non-destructive evaluation methods can be used on orbit to find subsurface damage on the Shuttle wing leading edge. Credit: NASA/John Bethune

The astronauts will be looking closely for delaminations of the reinforced carbon-carbon, involving either the heat-resistant surface coating or the interwoven layers of lightweight carbon material under the surface.

During ground testing of reinforced carbon-carbon panels, it was determined that coating loss coupled with delaminations or gaps in the interwoven fibers of the carbon-carbon material could fail catastrophically during peaks of high heating during reentry.