I hate to say it but I believe the whole foam design concept is flawed.
How they ever imagined that they could spray on a foam insulation onto a hard surface that is subjected to extreme temp cryo variations, dynamic loading, vibration, air pressure, etc, and expect it to remain intact is just beyond me.
There are numerous computer models to predict failure of bolted joints, mechanical structures, but there's just too many things that could affect the quality of adhesion for this method to be reliable.
They better get the next generation of launch vehicle ready.
Apparently, the debris caused significant enough damage that it is still an issue. The notion of a space shuttle type launch vehicle is obsolete and was always absurd. Rockets now boost most satellites and if we need a shuttle-sized repair platform, we should boost one and leave it in orbit permanently.
The catastrophic failure rate of this type of space program is about 1/50. Every 50 launches, a shuttle is destroyed. It is a FAR too complicated system and this portion of the space mission, launch and reentry, is by far the most dangerous. We should have focused our efforts on some type of high-altitude launch scheme, where jet airplanes do most of the lifting work. Most of the shuttle's problems have focused around the reusible components, sectioned SRBs, the entire cryogenic hydrox fuel system, etc. Liquid hydrogen is an INCREDIBLY cold thing, the boiling point of this gas is around 20 degrees above absolute zero. And, it must be flowed at high pressure at incredible flow rates for proper combustion.
yet another reason we should abandon projectile propulsion methods to enter low earth orbit, we should just change our focus to alternative means of launching payloads such as the space elevator concept or friggin sharks with laser beams :biggrin:
Not to brag, (how could I, it's not me.) but my cousin is Janet Kavandi. 3 launches/missions, 33 days in space, and she's one of the nicest people you'll ever meet. I saw the STS 91 go up from the "family section" It was deafening.
It's really something to see/hear from any distance. Pioneeers on board every time it goes up. Prayers for all aboard.
You know the thoughts of what happened last time are on their minds. They might not want to admit it but it has to be.
It is certainly going to be a tense moment when it is time for it to break back thru the atomsphere.
I truly hope they all make it back safe and sound. And I don't think they should scrap the shuttle plan either.