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  Apollo command module without Kapton foil

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Author Topic:   Apollo command module without Kapton foil
1202 Alarm

Posts: 321
From: Geneva, Switzerland
Registered: Nov 2003

posted 11-21-2017 03:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for 1202 Alarm     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
We are all used to the pictures of the Apollo command module after splashdown, but these two of Apollo 6 are clearly different. You can see burns, but no kapton foils.

So, it was possible to get an Apollo CM back without these layers of protection, at least from earth orbit?

Also, why any CM (as far as I remember) was ever kept in a "post landing" condition untouched, with all its remaining kapton still on it? That would have been quite spectacular.

Robert Pearlman

Posts: 38331
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 11-21-2017 03:51 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA's Apollo Experience Report: Thermal Protection Subsystem notes that the Apollo 6 spacecraft (CM 020) flew without the pressure-sensitive Kapton polyimide tape:
The only difference between the Apollo 6 mission and the Apollo 4 mission in regard to thermal configuration was that CM 020 had the Block II thermal-control coating removed...
As for keeping other command modules in their post-splashdown condition, in addition to recovery team members stripping off Kapton as souvenirs, North American Rockwell removed the tape in the process of inspecting and analyzing the performance of the spacecraft.

David Carey

Posts: 662
Registered: Mar 2009

posted 11-21-2017 11:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for David Carey   Click Here to Email David Carey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Perhaps related in part to an earth-orbital return, Apollo 7 at the Frontiers of Flight Museum and Apollo 9's Gumdrop at the San Diego Air and Space Museum still have quite a bit of the original foil and surface finish.

I'd certainly call both closer to "as-landed" versus the scrubbed look of A8 and A10-A17 CMs after de-processing.


Posts: 1837
From: Fairfax, VA, USA
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 11-21-2017 05:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for stsmithva   Click Here to Email stsmithva     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I remember reading a cS post in which somebody said that a CM used to be displayed with the remains of the Kapton still on, and regularly the pieces that fell off were swept up and thrown away.

Rick Mulheirn

Posts: 3719
From: England
Registered: Feb 2001

posted 11-22-2017 03:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick Mulheirn   Click Here to Email Rick Mulheirn     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I visted the Apollo 4 command module at Stennis back in 1995 and it was shedding kapton like a sunburnt teenager!


Posts: 226
From: Perth, Western Australia
Registered: Apr 2015

posted 11-22-2017 05:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for oly   Click Here to Email oly     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As can be seen by the two photos of Apollo 6 post splashdown there are several areas of concentrated burning from the aerodynamic heating during re-entry. As these early flights experienced lower velocities than the speeds gained during lunar return flights the post flight test of heat shields and capsule surface treatment thermal protection would necessitate sampling of materials and the sub structure to give an idea of how the structure would handle lunar return re-entry.

Some of these test methods may require the removal of any surface coatings to expose the lower materials or allow non-destructive testing methods to be used that may be effected by the coatings or the methods may not test thru these coatings. One test would be a basic visual inspection of the epoxy material that cant be seen with the Kapton in place.

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