Space Shuttle Tile Testing

click on the "pics" to enlarge or go to their subject pages



During the earlier flights of the Space Shuttle, there were several mishaps with tiles coming off  various areas on the Shuttle. A major Aerospace contractor was given a contract to apply various shapes onto various aircraft for the purpose of simulating Space Shuttle aerodynamic loads to experiment with better ways of bonding  tiles and better tiles as well. As it turned out this unnamed contractor simply did not "get it done" in a reasonable time frame. Typical "overengineering" slowed progress to an extend that NASA directed them to hire us and "STAND BACK". We took over with an essentially free hand to do the modifications needed for the testing. They then installed the tiles onto and into the shapes we provided. While quite a few NASA aircraft were involved in this task I will relate the story of one of the modifications on an F-15.


The large "bump" near the wing fuselage junction was quite massive and was expected to "not come off" at very high speeds. As always the deadline for completion "was yesterday" although we had not even started yet!


I proposed to spray some Urethane foam onto the area, shape it to the specifications given us, then glass over the top and call it "good" The safety personnel at NASA simply would not let us do this without building an enclosure and using full breathing apparatus. Not unreasonable considering the aircraft was in a large hangar with  lots of other aircraft and people.


Now you have to like the rest of the story:


The aircraft had to be washed in the outside parking area. Well, someone forgot to bring it back into the hangar and someone forgot to lock the gate. The guard on duty had been told to do "other things" and not be in the area.

We had the whole weekend - that is another story- to apply the foam and do the major shaping out in the parking space. All though we did not finish "yesterday" we did get it done today!


Hurricane IKE took most of the paper pictures but here are a couple:



The F-15 in flight -BUMPS on

 extracted from another article "pic" of the "BUMP"

Another large "bump" on the wing


Here is a link to some pages of a paper written to describe some of the work we did, related to airfoil and other changes on  "fast" aircraft"


Foot notes:


We did build a large enclosure at a later date for other "bumps". 3" PVC tubing provided the frame work and clear plastic the cover NASA  piped in clean air and exhausted the dust - or at least some of it.


Despite the "rough and ready approach" No specimens came off during flight.


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