SciTechBlog   « Back to Blog Main
May 31, 2008


Posted: 07:08 PM ET

Nice to hear from all the foamologists out there. For the record, at least five pieces of foam fell off the external fuel tank at about 3:30 after liftoff.

This is outside the zone of "aerodynamic concern" about foam. That is NASAese for the simple fact that stage of the ride uphill, the shuttle is in some very thin air indeed. The result: the foam does not accelerate significantly as it breaks free of the tank – and thus does not pose a serious risk of breaching the orbiter's thermal protection system. That said, engineers will be poring over that imagery, along with high resolution still images and video of the tank shot by the crew after it separates from the orbiter. Those images will tell the team much more about the size of the pieces that broke free. On docking day (Monday), Discovery will perform the now standard rotational pitch maneuver (RPM) – or back flip – to allow the station crew to snap some high resolution still images of the tiles. If there is any damage to the tiles, they will likely see it then. Later in the mission, they will attach an extension to the shuttle robot arm – and give the hard to see spots a good look-see. So bottom line here: unlikely the falling foam is a problem – and even if so, there is little doubt the shuttle team will see it. If there is damage, they will need to determine if it is serious enough to attempt some sort of repair.

Miles O'Brien/Space Correspondent

Filed under: NASA • Space

Share this on:
Franko   June 1st, 2008 7:08 am ET

Is this astrogel ?
Maybe something bouncy or melt like frozen soap bubbles would work ?

Mike Smitreski   June 1st, 2008 9:00 am ET

Silly question: Why don't they apply the foam to the inside of the tank?
Missed the launch yesterday, and as I watched CNN throughout the evening one would think no other news was happening other than a bunch of democrats bitching at each other. Still another reason to go right to NASA's website and ignore watching CNN for any 'news'...

Old Bob   June 1st, 2008 12:26 pm ET

Mike, the foam is on the outside to prevent the formation of ice which could do far more damage than a piece of foam, were it to hit the orbiter. Putting the foam inside would not prevent ice formation on the outside due to the extremely cold fuel and oxidizer which are about -430ºF and -250ºF respectively.

JamFez   June 1st, 2008 1:09 pm ET

Good question about putting insulation on the inside of the tank. This would do an even better job of keeping the ice off of the outer surface of the tank because the supercold liquid propellants would be directly insulated from the metal tank. The problem that follows is that small particles of foam could possibly erode and get inside the turbomachinery of the engines. This could be very bad.

Astrogel? What is world is that about? I have heard of aerogel material which makes a very good insulation.

s callahan   June 1st, 2008 2:17 pm ET

If i understood this correctly..there is not too much concern with the lost foam? Wasn't this blamed for the cause of the failed mission a few years back?
Hope all is well

Mike Smitreski   June 2nd, 2008 7:28 am ET

It is my understanding there are two tanks (liquid oxygen and hydrogen) within the external tank? If the foam is inside the external tank I would think that would insulate just as well. The foam would not be in contact with the fuel and would not get into the engines.

Mark   June 4th, 2008 9:33 am ET

Mike-I think to put foam inside the tank is a cost issue. To engineer foam that would work inside would cost $$$. Remember we won't be flying the shuttle soon, so new RND on an old platform is something that powers that be don't wish to do very much.

Franko   June 8th, 2008 9:16 pm ET

Use very light Astrogel, held together by same material as women's stockings.

Design it layer by layer. Hire a Structural Engineer experienced in Maidenform Invisible Options design.

R E M   June 26th, 2008 9:09 pm ET

Nobody noticed the part about the foam "accelerating"? When the foam breaks off the tank, it decelerates by air resistance. It only appears to be "accelerating" from the viewpoint of the rest of the tank which is actually accelerating.

R E M   June 26th, 2008 9:13 pm ET

Can't we come up with an epoxy type spray coating for the exterior of the foam on the shuttle side? The weight would cut the payload, but there would be a better chance of the shuttle surviving.

Jamaal Hopfer   December 20th, 2020 6:12 pm ET

It’s the little things that matter, that’s what I believe.

cheap olanzapine   January 9th, 2021 9:28 am ET

Thanks for the advice on credit repair on this excellent site. Some tips i would tell people should be to give up this mentality that they may buy currently and fork out later. Being a society many of us tend to make this happen for many issues. This includes vacation trips, furniture, along with items we'd like. However, you'll want to separate your current wants out of the needs. If you are working to boost your credit score actually you need some trade-offs. For example you'll be able to shop online to save cash or you can look at second hand merchants instead of high-priced department stores pertaining to clothing.

Curtis Otinger   January 11th, 2021 2:01 am ET

Really fantastic info can be found on site . "I know of no great men except those who have rendered great service to the human race." by Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire.

Janee Helgren   January 12th, 2021 12:31 am ET

Awesome! I appreciate your blog post to this matter. It has been useful. my blog: how to make a girl fall in love

Shawnta Leinbach   January 21st, 2021 12:56 am ET

Bernardine Hinckley   January 28th, 2021 10:02 pm ET

Attractive section of content. I just stumbled upon your blog and in accession capital to assert that I get in fact enjoyed account your blog posts. Any way I will be subscribing to your augment and even I achievement you access consistently fast.

An Galagher   January 28th, 2021 10:31 pm ET

ClarkPring   February 28th, 2021 2:07 pm ET

0slh2 nioe9 xr6l

Antonia Providence   March 4th, 2021 9:56 am ET

I have been surfing online greater than 3 hours nowadays, yet I by no means found any fascinating article like yours. It is pretty worth sufficient for me. Personally, if all website owners and bloggers made good content material as you probably did, the net will be a lot more helpful than ever before. "Learn to see in another's calamity the ills which you should avoid." by Publilius Syrus.

Stefan Hamers   March 4th, 2021 10:02 am ET

Leave Your Comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

subscribe RSS Icon
About this blog

Are you a gadgethead? Do you spend hours a day online? Or are you just curious about how technology impacts your life? In this digital age, it's increasingly important to be fluent, or at least familiar, with the big tech trends. From gadgets to Google, smartphones to social media, this blog will help keep you informed.

subscribe RSS Icon
Powered by VIP