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Thread: Why add tiles to the Orion capsule?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2009

    Why add tiles to the Orion capsule?

    What is gained by NASA adding the weight and expense of 970 Shuttle-type tiles to the Orion capsule, when the thin aluminum skin of the Apollo capsule was undamaged and adequate in 10 missions?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    While I have not researched this topic, I would presume because it would allow the capsule to be refurbished and reused, while the Apollo capsules were single-use only.
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Have you ever held one of these tiles in your hand? I've held a white shuttle tile, and it weighs next to nothing. A lot like those autoclaved concrete bricks, in my memory even lighter. So I don't think it adds that much weight (who knows, it might even be lighter than if you made the outer wall out of aluminium), and as KaiYeves says it likely is required to make the capsule reusable. Apollo capsules survived re-entry, but I doubt the heat the outer shell got did much good for its material properties.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    NEOTP Atlanta, GA
    Apparently the tiles will need to be replaced after each mission. So yes, better protection but with a fairly big caveat.

    “The fact that Orion lands in the ocean, requires we replace the [1,300] tiles after each mission,” Huff said. “The tiles are waterproofed to protect them from fresh water, such as rain. But during re-entry the waterproofing material burns out of the tiles so they do absorb salt water while in the ocean and that adds contaminants that would make their reuse impossible.”

    Installing TPS tiles will be a part of preparation for each mission. The work taking place now will help perfect the process.

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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    The Apollo capsules used ablative heat shields. Their aluminum sides were not exposed to the maximum temperatures generated by ballistic reentry.

    The temperature on the CM's surface climbed up to 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, but the heat shields protected the inner structure of the CM. The heat shield was ablative, which means that it was designed to melt and erode away from the CM as it heated up. From the ground, it would look as if the CM had caught on fire during its descent. In reality, the ablative covering is what kept the astronauts inside the CM safe -- the material diverted heat away as it vaporized.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Their aluminum sides were not exposed to the maximum temperatures generated by ballistic reentry.
    Obviously not maximum heat like the bottom shield does, just like the tiles on Orion won't. But I don't think it was particularly cool out there either. Just look at the sentence stating that the waterproofing will burn out of the tiles on the side.

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