The Shuttle Orbiter Thermal Protection System Materials, Designs, and Flight Performance Overview 831118
The design requirements for the Orbiter thermal protection system (TPS), the various TPS materials that are used, the different design approaches associated with each of the materials, and the performance experienced during the flight test program are described. The first five flights of the Orbiter Columbia have provided the necessary data to verify the TPS thermal performance, structural integrity, and reusability. The flight performance characteristics of each TPS material are discussed. This discussion is based on postflight inspections and postflight interpretation of the flight instrumentation data. The flights to date indicate that the thermal and structural design requirements for the Orbiter TPS have been met and that the overall performance has been outstanding.