« In an Ivory TowerPhysics 2, Business Administration 0 »
08.27.2003

Things I Have Learned About Foam From the Columbia Accident Investigation Board Report

Insulating foam falls off of the external tank on every Shuttle mission, usually in popcorn-size pieces.

No one knows why foam falls off the tank.

On about 10% of missions, foam falls off of the left bipod ramp, part of the Y-shaped structure that holds the Orbiter's nose to the external fuel tank.

No one knows why this happens, either.

Pieces of foam that fall off of the bipod ramp are the largest bits of flight debris ever seen during launch. Some are the size of a suitcase.

When foam falls off of the bipod ramp, it is always from the left side, never the right.

Not a clue why.

Several mechanisms have been proposed for foam loss. They have elaborate names like cryopumping, cryoinjection, and explosive expansion of trapped blowing agent. All of them posit some kind of bubble of gas rapidly expanding and shearing foam off of its substrate.

None of them matches observed data.

The orbiter is not supposed to be hit by any debris during launch. The reinforced carbon panels on the Shuttle's wing are only required to withstand a minimal impact. By luck and good engineering, they are much, much stronger than the Shuttle design says they need to be.

The orbiter design does not anticipate anything ever falling off of the tank.

A piece of foam traveling at 550 miles per hour can punch right through a reinforced carbon panel.

Foam falls off of the external tank on every Shuttle mission.

« In an Ivory TowerPhysics 2, Business Administration 0 »
Idle Words

brevity is for the weak




Greatest Hits

The Alameda-Weehawken Burrito Tunnel
The story of America's most awesome infrastructure project.

Argentina on Two Steaks A Day
Eating the happiest cows in the world

Scott and Scurvy
Why did 19th century explorers forget the simple cure for scurvy?

No Evidence of Disease
A cancer story with an unfortunate complication.

Controlled Tango Into Terrain
Trying to learn how to dance in Argentina

Dabblers and Blowhards
Calling out Paul Graham for a silly essay about painting

Attacked By Thugs
Warsaw police hijinks

Dating Without Kundera
Practical alternatives to the Slavic Dave Matthews

A Rocket To Nowhere
A Space Shuttle rant

Best Practices For Time Travelers
The story of John Titor, visitor from the future

100 Years Of Turbulence
The Wright Brothers and the harmful effects of patent law

Every Damn Thing

2015 May Jul
2014 Jul Aug
2013 Feb Dec
2012 Feb Sep Nov Dec
2011 Aug
2010 Mar May Jun Jul
2009 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep
2008 Jan Apr May Aug Nov
2007 Jan Mar Apr May Jul Dec
2006 Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
2005 Jan Feb Mar Apr Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2004 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Oct Nov Dec
2003 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2002 May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Your Host

Maciej Cegłowski


Threat

Please ask permission before reprinting full-text posts or I will crush you.