whilst I was failing to get to sleep last night due to the effects of an
oncoming cold and a cat which was very annoied by a fence it had got itself
trapped under, I had a brainwave on how NASA can decrease the possibility
of another accident such as the one which happened on Saturday (assuming
that the tiles were damaged by the lump of stuff falling off).
My answer is:-
Use a sandwich of tissue papaer and cheesey Watsits!
More precisely, cover the underbelly of the shuttle prelaunch with a layer
of doped tissue paper, then apply a 2cm think layer of corn starch foam followed
by a final layer of tissue paper, doped.
This should be a pretty light layer and as long as the starch foam is open
enough that there are interconnections between all the bubbles it shouldn’t
explode as the shuttle gets higher. On all places other than on the leading
edges the aerodynamic pressure shouldn’t be such that it would get
ripped off during the assent phase but it would act as a protective shield
against ice blocks etc. Even if the blocks penetrated the layer it would
still cushion the impact and decrease the level of damage significantly.
On the re-entry phase, the tissue papaer and strach would almost instantaniously
carbonise and ablate off the surface leaving the tiles beneath pristine.
So there you are, a low-tech solution to a high tech problem! 😉