Wednesday, July 27, 2005


NASA Says Foam Insulation Flew Off Shuttle  

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And reportedly, NASA is puzzled over the constant loss of foam insulation. This alone makes me wonder if these scientists are very bright.

You have here some unique circumstances. There's a huge tank holding thousands of gallons of extremely cold liquid fuel. The walls of the tank are relatively thin. In fact, the fuel inside forms a critical component for keeping the tank in usable shape. Then you coat this tank with a totally different insulating foam of some kind. I question the bond between the tank and foam, in the first place. Then add in the fact that the tank, with its dwindling fuel load, has to flex as it heats up and experiences G-load during the launch. I've heard that there's also a lot of vibration during a launch. And it puzzles them that the insulation, as thin as it is, can't take the load without flaking? Exactly what planet are these people from???

I don't know if our material engineering skills will ever be up to it. The only solution I can see is making the entire tank out of a structurally enhanced insulation. Or some material that's strong, but can act as an insulator. This bi-material approach doesn't seem to be working too well.

On the other hand, maybe Burt Rutan can take over NASA and show them how to do it WITHOUT such things happening.
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