REDSTONE ARESNAL, Ala. (WHNT)-- You can learn a lot by looking at a missile from the outside, if you know what to look for. But you can see far more from the inside, so that's why people at Redstone Test Center use X-rays.
"We're looking at rocket motors and war heads and things that go 'bang,'" explained George Hodges, Test Engineer at RTC, "but also the electronics. If you have a loose wire that wasn't correctly connected during manufacture, that could make an unsafe condition."
“If we catch it [a fault in the equipment] on x-ray – for example a loose motor wire – we not only save our customer money, we prevent the equipment from undergoing testing that is potentially dangerous to our team members,” said James Hughes, X-ray Technician and Subject Matter Expert at RTC
What they do there is important, potentially life-saving work. What they test is dangerous. Hodges said, "We deal with things that are designed to do a lot of damage. So it's important we take care of people."
RTC has been doing X-rays for years. A release from RTC says the agency examines:
"Any and all equipment that will be undergoing tests, from rocket motors and missiles to helicopter parts and other components. The process starts with a visual inspection of the test items, followed by an X-ray and a quality check of the X-ray image. The last step is image interpretation, whether that is film or a more modern digital image."
As technology to do this changed and customer demand developed, though, the X-ray Department outgrew their current space on the installation. That's why there's a new building in the works for the department, and it's almost ready for move-in in a few months.
Engineers tell us they're constantly moving in equipment for X-raying, and their small bay is 1/4 the size of what it'll be in the new building. Space is very important, especially when you're working with big missiles and other parts.
"[The new building] will make things easier," said Hodges. "We'll be able to do more testing. The X-ray images we produce will go through at a faster rate so our customers, the Army, the soldiers, get a better quality product."
It's not just good business. It's essential for any mission or test, and often, national security.
"They'll have confidence it will perform, do the job they need it to do, when the time comes," said Hodges.