Hypervelocity impact (HVI), ubiquitous in low Earth orbit with an impacting velocity in excess of 1 km/s, poses an immense threat to the safety of orbiting spacecraft. Upon penetration of the outer shielding layer of a typical two-layer shielding system, the shattered projectile, together with the jetted materials of the outer shielding material, subsequently impinge the inner shielding layer, to which pitting damage is introduced. The pitting damage includes numerous craters and cracks disorderedly scattered over a wide region. Targeting the quantitative evaluation of this sort of damage (multitudinous damage within a singular inspection region), a characterization strategy, associating linear with nonlinear features of guided ultrasonic waves, is developed. Linear-wise, changes in the signal features in the time domain (e.g., time-of-flight and energy dissipation) are extracted, for detecting gross damage whose characteristic dimensions are comparable to the wavelength of the probing wave; nonlinear-wise, changes in the signal features in the frequency domain (e.g., second harmonic generation), which are proven to be more sensitive than their linear counterparts to small-scale damage, are explored to characterize HVI-induced pitting damage scattered in the inner layer. A numerical simulation, supplemented with experimental validation, quantitatively reveals the accumulation of nonlinearity of the guided waves when the waves traverse the pitting damage, based on which linear and nonlinear damage indices are proposed. A path-based rapid imaging algorithm, in conjunction with the use of the developed linear and nonlinear indices, is developed, whereby the HVI-induced pitting damage is characterized in images in terms of the probability of occurrence.
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