As NASA resumes construction on the International Space Station, the shuttle program is coming up on some of the most challenging space missions ever. To support the program, NASA Glenn continues working to improve space shuttle safety.
Throughout 2006, Glenn researchers and scientists have performed various shuttle safety projects, including improving numerous shuttle components and helping to develop repair techniques.
Over a two-week period in late March and early April, Glenn's Supersonic 8- by 6-Foot Wind Tunnel was utilized by the agency to make detailed measurements of how the shuttle would be affected by the absence of the protuberance air load ramps. Testing verified the tank was safe to fly without the ramps, leading to the biggest aerodynamic change in the shuttle system during the fleet's 25 year life.
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Image right: Pete Cooper (left) and Dale Dragony (right) assemble space shuttle pressurization line models for wind tunnel tests. Credit: NASA
Additionally, Glenn has been working with a team of participants from other NASA centers and industry to develop a model for the small area repair material, NOAX (Non-Oxide Adhesive eXperimental) to determine its behavior on re-entry. Glenn researchers are studying the chemistry of this material under the high temperatures the space shuttle experiences upon its return to Earth. Some tests of NOAX may be conducted on STS-121.
Conical seal panel pitting on rudder speed brake that helps the shuttle maneuver during descent - performed analysis in identifying root causes of and proposed a repair plan for the pitting.
Foam insulation on external tank - improved analysis methods to better understand the composition, material behavior and the physics involved of the foam and developing advanced signal process methods to achieve higher resolution of flaws in the foam.
Liquid oxygen feed line and ice frost ramp - developed and characterized flexible foams to insulate feedline bracket, filling gap between bracket and feedline and minimizing ice formation (feed line bracket test fixture made and tested at Glenn).
Nose cap - detailed understanding of the steps in the refurbishment process.
Wing leading edge and nose cap-developing physics-based computer models to predict sealant loss on shuttle re-entry.
Composite pressure vessels that run thrusters for shuttle maneuverability - conducted tests and analysis to determine strength and improve ability to predict life expectancy.
Main landing gear door environmental seals - testing to determine seals' life.
Cracks on flow liner - determination of root cause and physical fixes.
Reinforced carbon/carbon (RCC) - developing mathematical models to describe oxidation via cracks and fissures resulting from reaction of RCC with air and developing and using nondestructive evaluation to characterize oxidation and impact damage.