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shuttle idea. Is this possible

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posted on Aug, 4 2005 @ 03:53 PM
I had a thought about the ongoing shuttle thermal protection tiles saga. I was off work yesterday and watched the space walk on tv and could not believe the amount of time and money wasted on checking tiles on the belly of the craft. Also does this mean that on every launch comments will be passed on how much foam from the tanks hit the craft and possibly damaged the tiles.

I have an idea????

Remember at school did you ever use Vacum forming machines. They sort of like heated up a sheet of plastic to melt and shape itself around a chosen object such as your woodwork ie jellymould or something alike.

Would it not be possible to use this on the belly of shuttles prior to take off. This would mean a thin but durable plastic skin covering the belly of the craft therfore protecting it from damage on take off. Also as its plastic on re-entry it would burn off in literally nano seconds allowing the thermal tiles to be exposed to complete the job.

Im sure this would be a very inexpensive way of solving this problem. It would ensure that tiles are held in place and protected throughout the whole mission right up until they are needed on re entry

posted on Aug, 4 2005 @ 05:34 PM
I'm not entirely sure what the big fuss is about. I read on the NASA site that there are hundreds of small pieces of debris orbiting Earth from parts of shuttles nad sataleittes like pieces of paint. But then I was wondering, wouldn't it make it worse to take of the tiles or whatever they're taking off?

posted on Aug, 4 2005 @ 10:02 PM
You idea wouldn't work. The problem lies in the physic os the plasma formed on reentry. The platic would generate massive amounts of friction while it burned off and would cause a ton of heat to be absorbed by the tiles. The way it works now is that hard ceramic tiles will slibe across the plasma absobing much smaller amounts of heat.

Anything over top of the tiles would cause serious problems.

Smart thinking though, creativity and random ideas makes an engineer!

posted on Aug, 4 2005 @ 10:31 PM
What if the shrink wrap or plastic was applied to the big fuel tank so that the foam would not shed in the first place?

That tank never has to survive re-entry, so the plasma won't be a factor.

posted on Aug, 4 2005 @ 10:41 PM
Great idea, but I would suppose the material would have to be super heat resitant. Don't think plastic would suffice. But good idea - send it to NASA.


posted on Aug, 5 2005 @ 01:42 AM
I heard the materials used to hold the original tiles together violated some sort of EPA law so they had to aboned that for an unsafer, yet durable, material. Is the EPA responsible for the Columbia some form or another?

posted on Aug, 5 2005 @ 02:01 AM

Originally posted by Frosty
I heard the materials used to hold the original tiles together violated some sort of EPA law so they had to aboned that for an unsafer, yet durable, material. Is the EPA responsible for the Columbia some form or another?

But it had nothing to do with the tiles.
The foam used on the external tank was full of CFC's and NASA was pushed to switch to a different formulation to protect the environment. The new foam was more prone to shedding.

I had also heard that a spray coating over the foam was removed as a way to save pounds.

Silly NASA

posted on Aug, 5 2005 @ 09:15 AM
Could they not wrap somthing around the fuel tank to prevent bits from falling off?

I see some stuff that could do the trick advertised in Autosport most weeks

posted on Aug, 5 2005 @ 11:08 AM
What about doing a heat resistant webbing or netting on the fuel tank. You know what Iam talking about like " chicken wire ".

You could put it in the foam as they are spraying or on the outside of the foam.

Just a guess!

posted on Aug, 5 2005 @ 03:44 PM
Some good ideas here. I didt think bout the fuel tank maybe it would be easier to shrink wrap that. My idea as i explained was basically to package the tiles in a shrink wrap plastic which would eventually burn off on re-entry enabling the tiles to complete their task. Basically kepping them under cotton wraps until they are needed.

QUEST pointed out about the friction which is something i didnt think about so cheers QUEST.

Is there no other way to lower the effects of re-entry by like having the craft slow right down whilst it sinks under the roof of the atmosphere. Is it possible?????

I dont usually study space and shuttles etc etc just that little brain wave got me thinking

posted on Aug, 5 2005 @ 04:11 PM
i just emailed my idea to nasa headquarters. Ill keep you informed

posted on Aug, 5 2005 @ 04:34 PM
Saint, I hear a lot of suggestions here by people who obviously aren't engineers or knowledgeable of space operations, heat transfer, fluid dynamics, etc.; and I have to shake my head at some of the naivete, well-meaning as it might be.

But not yours! I think you've come up with a pretty good idea.

The trick would be to make the covering:

(1) strong enough to absorb the impact from pieces of whatever,
(2) light enough not to impose a fuel/weight penalty on the craft, and
(3) burning off all at once (either upon entry or, say, at the ascent stage past 100,000 feet) so that the melting pieces themselves don't become a potential means for damaging the shuttle.

I hope your suggestion gets the serious consideration it deserves.

posted on Aug, 5 2005 @ 05:18 PM

Originally posted by thesaint

Would it not be possible to use this on the belly of shuttles prior to take off. This would mean a thin but durable plastic skin covering the belly of the craft therfore protecting it from damage on take off. Also as its plastic on re-entry it would burn off in literally nano seconds allowing the thermal tiles to be exposed to complete the job.

Considering the shuttle program is going down the drain, the idea though good, would probably not be used say for the space shuttle.

durable plastic skin, it would have to be VERY this durable...

"Investigators into the Columbia accident have estimated that the dislodged foam was about 19 by 11.5 by 5.5 inches (48 by 29 by 14 cm), weighed about 26.7 ounces, or 1.7 lb (0.75 kg) and impacted the Shuttle at nearly 530 mph (850 km/h). For the sake of a rough comparison, this block of foam would be about the same size and weight as a large loaf of bread....RCC panels from the Orbiter Discovery were placed in a NASA test facility and subjected to a series of impacts similar to those it is believed Columbia experienced. After firing a 1.7 lb (0.75 kg) block of foam from a nitrogen gas-powered cannon at a speed of 530 mph (850 km/h), the foam slammed into the slate gray RCC panels with a force of 4,500 lb (20 kN). The first test created a 3-inch (7.6 cm) crack extending from the surface of the panel, through the 1/3-inch (8.5 mm) thick RCC material, into a T-seal joint that seals the gap between adjacent panels, and through a rib reinforcement that attaches to the wing structure."

posted on Aug, 5 2005 @ 11:26 PM
I think its a great idea to put it on the tank, because all it needs to do is hold the foam until the tank is released. What I don't understand is why would they care what the EPA thinks if it violates safety of flight? It's not like the Shuttle takes off every day or month for that matter, now it's down to once every few years, thanks to them.

posted on Aug, 6 2005 @ 05:46 AM
I had the same sort of idea a few months ago and started this thread.....
Making The Present Shuttle Safer!!!!!

Not many people thought it was a good idea though!


posted on Aug, 6 2005 @ 05:56 AM
Its a nice idea. I personally thing scrapping the shuttle is the best thing to do. Im a Software Engineer by trade. Software often gets to the point in its lifecycle where it is old outdated and is struggleing under the weight of all the extra features that have been bolted onto it. Some times its best just to kill it. I think they should do the same with the scuttle.

The idea of a sacrificial skin was used on earlier one off capsuals though I don't think it was plastic that was used. In my opinion your idea has merits. My question would be why wait for re-entry to shed the skin. Why not shed it in space before re entry and allow it to femain in degrading orbit. That gets rid of the added heat problems and keeps all the added bonuses of protection.

We then have to look at the issues from a management perspective. Is this added weight in skin (which equates to added cost, added weight, more fuel etc tec) going to offset massively the issues surrounding the foam flying off. Was Columbia just a one off? Prehaps it would be beter to go to the heart of the issue and solve the issues with the foam rather than trying to close the door after the horse has bolted?

posted on Aug, 6 2005 @ 09:49 AM
Other than scrapping the shuttle totally these are the best ideas i have heard for the shuttle.

I remember Mickeys thread and agreed strongly that a covering on the underside of the shuttle would be an excellent idea to protect the shuttle, not too many people agreed though.

Ive heard lately though that there will be no need for any of this!!!

Years ago NASA used foam that contained CFC's and never had the problem of falling foam. Now that NASA are exempt from US enviromental laws they can once again use that foam.

Problem solved.....hopefully!

posted on Aug, 6 2005 @ 11:13 AM
why cant the tank be made to be in a way that it can be reused then theyed save the tax payers a littler more money. what did that think foam was going to do at high speed. if you look at the long range film you can see the foam burning off.

posted on Aug, 6 2005 @ 12:00 PM
the fuel tank is allready reusable but the problem is the foam. the best way is to get away with the foam and use another type of isolation. or make a newly designed tank so thay can use it for cev but with newly developed materials which can withstand higher temperatures. ect.

other way of re-entry must be changed create an adaptive system which makes a buble around the ship similar to the earth atmosphere. so we have no problems with earths one ., similar to two cells which can join and give the material inside on to the other one ..

posted on Aug, 6 2005 @ 02:16 PM
Well, the ideas are "imaginative" all right but "practical" No way!
Firstly, if you add a "plastic wrap" you would be adding hundreds of pounds worth of load already on the shuttle thus the shuttle would carry less payload and the cost would shoot up.
Second, the plastic wrap would burn up on takeoff itself forget re-entry, a shuttle experiences nearly 10G's and travels faster than 11mts/sec so it experiences incredible friction with the air and this plastic would start to melt slowly and form lumps on the shuttles surface causing regions of high temp in perticular places also drag, decreasing effeciency, increasing the fuel required to attain a perticular altitude and decrease payload once again.
Thirdly, this foam problem is a recent problem with the shuttle, the foam is manufactured and designed to match the tanks contours[actually it is sprayed on like spray paint or shaving cream except its very dry and hard] and is "set" into the shuttles body. IMHo the foam problem is due to age and NASA's reluctace to give the shuttle a completely new RCC cover, also according to recent news articles Lockheed Martin's standards are dropping and quality is getting effected. This coupled with budget cuts is the reason, I feel, that the space program is getting shabby.
The shuttle worked fine for nearly 2 decades and now suddenly we have foam tearing through the ships hull? Doesnt this tell you that it is not an engineering problem ? It is a problem with quality!
here is a good article on the Thermal protection system: Shuttle Thermal Protective System
Also for those who didnt know the foam on the tank is a special material that actually burns[ablative material] so that the heat is dissipated much faster than conducting it through its surface, they are not ceramic tiles but it is something like thermocol.
Here's the company that makes the foam: NCFI

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