Why fiber optics?
There are emerging technologies for launch vehicles demanding advanced sensory solutions, such as active vibration damping and composite material health monitoring.
The wires connected to electrical sensors (at least two per sensor, often more) and the cable shielding can quickly add up to a heavy mass contribution, which is to be avoided in a launcher. Furthermore, a large network of electrical sensors inside a rocket is susceptible to electromagnetic interference due to the long cable lengths involved. In addition, safety and reliability issues (flammable propellants etc.) pose additional requirements.
An emerging class of sensors that has the potential to combine several beneficial aspects in this context are fiber-optic sensors. Fiber-optic sensors make use of the propagation properties of light inside an optical glass fiber to deduce information on various physical quantities. Due to the absence of electrical wires or electricity and due to the properties of glass, the above-mentioned issues associated with electrical sensors can be solved.