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  Identifying space shuttle thermal tiles

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Author Topic:   Identifying space shuttle thermal tiles
Hart Sastrowardoyo
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Posts: 3015
From: Toms River, NJ
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 09-20-2000 08:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Short of calling Rockwell, is there a website where one can ask them, "I saw a tile with serial numbers XXXX-XXXX and was wondering if you could tell which orbiter and what flights it had flown, if any?"

Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 34997
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 09-20-2000 11:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The numbers on a tile reference where on the orbiter the tile should be installed.

When a tile is beyond reuse, technicians use the number to order an exact (to shape and size) replacement.

Unless whoever recovered the tile also recovered its corresponding scrap paperwork, the chances of identifying when a tile last flew are very low.

If s/he does have the paperwork then one indicator would be to look for the OV number and the date of removal. Though not always the case, you can sometimes determine a most recent flight by comparing the date of removal to the orbiter's mission dates and finding the closest match.

garymilgrom
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Posts: 1931
From: Atlanta, GA
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 03-20-2007 11:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Why do some tiles not have the OV number on them? Is there a place to enter the tile number and find out what location it is located in on the orbiter?

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 34997
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 04-02-2007 03:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Tiles without markings can be for several reasons, from the numbers having been worn off to their never being added.

There is not, to my knowledge, a publicly accessible guide or database by which tile numbers can be researched. I have seen paperwork that offers specific information for particular orbiter and flight configurations, but nothing online.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 34997
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 04-22-2011 01:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
collectSPACE Resources: Locating space shuttle tiles by number
Think of the space shuttle orbiter as a big puzzle with each of its heat shield tiles a puzzle piece.

All space shuttle thermal protection system (TPS) tiles are assigned a serial number identifying where on the orbiters they are to be installed. Each tile is individually made to fit a specific location...

Joel Katzowitz
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Posts: 656
From: Marietta GA USA
Registered: Dec 1999

posted 08-21-2011 09:06 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Joel Katzowitz   Click Here to Email Joel Katzowitz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I recently acquired a flown tile with it's supporting paperwork and I have a few questions regarding it's history.

With all of the recent controversy over FOIA inquiries to NASA concerning tiles, should I even open that can of worms?

I read online that the TPS NO. "AFT-4-21-119" on my paperwork can be decoded as the -4- indicates the orbiter number (OV-104) and the -21- indicates the next sequential mission for that vehicle. Obviously inferring that the tile was removed following the 20th mission (STS-86). According the tile maps I've seen, my tile was removed from the top surface of the body flap hence AFT. Can anyone confirm this theory?

The tile surface is coated with a black silicone material as opposed to a hard shell. The surface of my tile feels soft and spongy like rubber or silicone. It has "blisters" raised on it with what appear to be wear marks. I read a description on line regarding a similar tile that mentioned the coating was there to mitigate airflow issues over the tile.

I have been independently researching these questions but have haven't uncovered any satisfying answers. Thanks for any input.

Editor's note: Threads merged.

Joel Katzowitz
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Posts: 656
From: Marietta GA USA
Registered: Dec 1999

posted 08-24-2011 07:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Joel Katzowitz   Click Here to Email Joel Katzowitz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've been able to uncover some additional information about this tile which I'll be happy to share.

There are a couple of areas on the top of the body flap where tiles have been damaged by impingement from the down-firing RCS thrusters. To reduce the degradation, NASA has coated the surface of those susceptible tiles with black RTV. The RTV maintains it's elasticity after ascent and provides protection from the plumes. The blistering and pitting on this specimen is a result of long term thruster activity.

brody1140
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Posts: 1
From: melbourne, Fl
Registered: Jul 2012

posted 07-03-2012 10:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for brody1140   Click Here to Email brody1140     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have an early shuttle tile with the following codes on it:
V070 - 193017-438
DC4255
LWNG-4-05-063
P-362
Can anyone please tell me which shuttle it was flown on?

garymilgrom
Member

Posts: 1931
From: Atlanta, GA
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 07-03-2012 10:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There is no way to tell. All we can know is that it's from the lower elevons.

More information here

Skuz9c1
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Posts: 9
From: Wyoming, Michigan, USA
Registered: Oct 2011

posted 07-03-2012 06:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skuz9c1   Click Here to Email Skuz9c1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Sorry, to hijack this thread a little, but I have a tile where the numbers don't match up to the list NASA put out above.

They are:
VT-70-006006
-040-009463

It is Black if that makes a difference.

Greggy_D
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Posts: 873
From: Michigan
Registered: Jul 2006

posted 07-04-2012 10:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Greggy_D   Click Here to Email Greggy_D     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I believe that since your tile starts with VT, it is actually a test article.

garymilgrom
Member

Posts: 1931
From: Atlanta, GA
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 07-04-2012 11:55 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes that's a test piece which sounds similar to this one:

Test Tile 400px

Skuz9c1
New Member

Posts: 9
From: Wyoming, Michigan, USA
Registered: Oct 2011

posted 07-04-2012 07:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skuz9c1   Click Here to Email Skuz9c1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks Gregg and Gary, I had a hunch that's what it was. But, since it wasn't on the NASA list, I wanted to make sure.

Spaceguy5
Member

Posts: 426
From: Pampa, TX, US
Registered: May 2011

posted 07-05-2012 12:51 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Spaceguy5   Click Here to Email Spaceguy5     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have a VT tile as well. Assumed that it was a test piece, good to know that I was right.

garymilgrom
Member

Posts: 1931
From: Atlanta, GA
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 07-05-2012 06:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Anyone know what the NFI or NF1 stands for? Perhps not for installation?

I have some other test pieces where these letters are marked on the rear of the tile too (most tiles have the entire number marked on both sides of the tile).

dragon001
Member

Posts: 47
From: Allentown, PA, USA
Registered: Apr 2012

posted 12-29-2012 01:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for dragon001     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Curious if someone can confirm that VT are actual test articles... I found this site, about half way down:
I'm trying to locate VT70-191037-027, I see that it is on the wing but I would like to see if I can get a picture of exactly where. In the general location anyway...
...to which someone replied:
This is an more interesting tile than average. Its located on the door that normally covers the orbiter's left-hand main landing gear - specifically towards the front of the door and towards its outer edge where the door hinge is located. The tile is of a type know as LI-900 which covers the bulk of the underside of the orbiters, and is a High-temperature Reusable Surface Insulation (HRSI) black tile.

garymilgrom
Member

Posts: 1931
From: Atlanta, GA
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 12-29-2012 07:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I cannot confirm that ALL tiles marked VT were used for testing but here is another one, different from the black one above. I believe this tile was used during transport of Columbia (the first orbiter) to KSC before tile installation was complete. These "delivery tiles" ensured smooth airflow so as not to disrupt thermal tiles already in place. The back of this tile has the SIF pad and red RTV glue.

Delivery Tile 400px

garymilgrom
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Posts: 1931
From: Atlanta, GA
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 12-29-2012 07:49 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Columbia showing what I believe are "real" thermal tiles plus delivery tiles and untiled areas while under construction in Palmdale.

columbia Delivery Tiles

garymilgrom
Member

Posts: 1931
From: Atlanta, GA
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 12-29-2012 08:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here are photos of the left landing door of Atlantis. First is overall, second is closer view of the hinge area and LH identification, last is close up showing markings. I can see no tiles marked VT in this area.

landing door

land door 2

land door 3

Finally - Joel here are some tiles labelled AFT that are near the fuel line door:

LOX door Tiles

Rocket Chris
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Posts: 259
From:
Registered: Nov 2009

posted 12-29-2012 12:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rocket Chris   Click Here to Email Rocket Chris     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
LWNG = Left Wing

CMikeW
Member

Posts: 62
From: United States
Registered: Apr 2013

posted 07-08-2016 01:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for CMikeW     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Is it possible to find out if a tile was installed on an orbiter and when, how many flights it took and when it was removed? Where do I look or who do I ask? Thanks.

Editor's note: Threads merged.

CMikeW
Member

Posts: 62
From: United States
Registered: Apr 2013

posted 07-08-2016 03:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for CMikeW     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by brody1140:
I have an early shuttle tile with the following codes on it...
LWNG means left wing, 4 means OV-104 Atlantis, 05 means the paperwork was generated during the ground operations between the fourth and fifth flight of OV-104, -063 is the sequence number of the paperwork. Hope this helps.

JBoe
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Posts: 749
From: Churchton, MD
Registered: Oct 2012

posted 07-08-2016 03:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for JBoe   Click Here to Email JBoe     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is good stuff! I really enjoy learning about what all these numbers mean. What are the smaller white circles next to the larger ones?

Hart Sastrowardoyo
Member

Posts: 3015
From: Toms River, NJ
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 07-08-2016 11:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Looking at my photos from the Hubble@25 Social on the Intrepid, the real black tiles on Enterprise began with MISC, as the dummy tiles had no writing on them.

There is a section on Enteprise's side which contained both the blanket as well as real white tiles with a numeric code, but it was too high up to see what those numbers and letters are.

pupnik
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Posts: 65
From: Maryland
Registered: Jan 2014

posted 07-15-2016 06:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for pupnik     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by CMikeW:
Is it possible to find out if a tile was installed on an orbiter and when, how many flights it took and when it was removed? Where do I look or who do I ask?
Some tiles come with paperwork (or more commonly copies of paperwork) about the inspection and removal of a tile. Even that paperwork won't provide a complete history though, it only let's you know which specific flight the paperwork was generated from.

If a tile is unblemished and in great condition it probably wasn't ever on an orbiter.

If it's grey and worn it's most likely been flown (slight chance it could be an engineering article).

But I've never heard of anyone having any luck tracking a complete history for a tile, it doesn't seem to have been tracked by the contractors. Statistically speaking though, if it's a tile not in an "unusual" spot (like ET door, landing gear door, other easily damaged areas) then it is probably a tile original to when the orbiter was first constructed. In fact if you go visit an orbiter today the majority of tiles you see will be the same tiles from the day it rolled off the line.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 34997
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 07-15-2016 06:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by pupnik:
I've never heard of anyone having any luck tracking a complete history for a tile...
I was able to obtain the complete flight history of a tile in my collection thanks to having the scrap paperwork and a contact within the space shuttle program while the vehicles were still flying.

The tile flew on 26 missions — six on Challenger and 20 on Atlantis. It crossed vehicles as a result of its location: it was installed on Challenger's body flap, which was transferred to Atlantis when OV-104 came into service.

Unfortunately, with the shuttle program now over and the engineering tracking systems archived, I don't know of any means to obtain the same type of history today.

All times are CT (US)

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