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Kennedy Space Center device being tested to help keep military equipment in top form...

11/15/2004 12:00AM

Kennedy Space Center device being tested to help keep military equipment in top form...
The device originated at the spaceport’s Advanced Electronics and Technology Development Laboratory in 1997. Eclypse International Corp. in Corona,

Calif., later won exclusive patent rights to further develop the technology, and could finish the enhancements in two years. The portable tool accurately pinpoints malfunctions within cables and wires to reliably verify conditions of electrical power and signal distribution. This includes locating problems inside Space Shuttle orbiters.

“One of its first applications at KSC was to detect intermittent wire failures in a cable used in the Space Shuttle’s Solid Rocket Boosters,” said Pedro Medelius, who helped invent the SWR. “It has also been used in the orbiter to locate electrical shorts in cables.”

By identifying and locating the malfunction, technicians hope the SWR will reduce the time it takes to detect wiring problems by 85 percent. Currently, the SWR accurately locates faults 75 percent of the time.

KSC’s Technology Transfer Office partnered with Research Triangle Institute and the University of Florida’s Southeast Regional Technology Transfer Center to market the technology, which also features an alphanumeric and illuminated display, an eight-hour rechargeable battery, and auto shut-off. The SWR also resists extreme weather.

These helpful features prompt many to rely on the device. The U.S. Department of Energy, rail operators and elevator maintenance companies even find it applicable.

Today, the U.S. Navy, Marines and Air Force are evaluating the technology in Afghanistan to test its ruggedness. The country is known for a fine grade of sand and dusty conditions, a taxing combination rarely found in the United States. Repair facilities certified by the Federal Aviation Administration and commercial aircraft manufacturers and operators use the technology, as well. “The technology used in the SWR device was developed to detect problems that could lead to accidents such as the one that resulted in the catastrophic failure of TWA 800 a few years ago,” said Medelius, a chief technologist for ASRC Aerospace Corp. “In that instance, a broken wire inside an empty fuel tank created a spark that ignited the remaining fuel vapors in the tank and caused a major explosion.”