A new fiber-optic monitoring system developed through a Space Act Agreement between NASA and Astro Technology Inc. of Houston is helping to increase safety for workers and reduce the risk of leaks and spills on two oil platforms off the coast of West Africa. The technology also has potential future space exploration applications.
Known as the Tendon Tension Monitoring System (TTMS), the system detects subtle changes in tension because of tides, wave activity, storms and routine boat docking operations.
The technology, installed in March on the two platforms in Atlantic Ocean, uses a fiber-optic strain gauge system and a series of sensor clamps to measure the tension on subsea risers and pipelines. The system senses any stresses along the platform’s four legs and streams the data in real time, enabling operators to make adjustments to maintain the stability of the platform.
A TTMS-derived system could play a role in NASA’s future human space exploration program, providing real-time monitoring on next generation deep space propulsion systems and resource production off the Earth, such as mining asteroids.
“What we learn from testing this technology on the oil platforms will benefit a broad range of terrestrial and space applications, and shows NASA’s technology investments support America’s future in space and improve our lives here on Earth,” said NASA’s Chief Technologist, Mason Peck.
NASA engineers at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston worked with ATI to design an underwater adhesive-style clamp prototype and tested it using the unique resources and experience of building and testing human-rated spacecraft in harsh operating environments. In the recent offshore experiment, 16 clamps were attached to two separate drill platforms by commercial divers, using fiber optic cables to send real-time data streaming to a control room on each drill platform.
NASA uses Space Act Agreements as a primary method for partnering with external groups and companies. The agreements enable NASA to enter into partnerships with organizations to open access to a wider range of technologies and capabilities, allowing the agency to help further its goals for aeronautics research and space exploration while simultaneously advancing the mission of the partner.
Astro Technology is a Houston-based company that specializes in instrumentation and monitoring technologies with a particular focus on real-time fiber-optic sensory systems for the oil and gas industry.
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