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PASSIVE THERMAL CONTROL SYSTEMS
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Abort Guidance System
Auxiliary Power Unit
Abort to Orbit
Russian Micropurification Unit (Russian)
Carbon Dioxide Removal System
Colony Forming Unit
Control Moment Gyroscope
Cell Performance Monitor
Compound Specific Analyzer-Combustible Products
Extravehicular Mobility Unit
Electrical Power System
Fuel Cell Monitoring System
Functional Cargo Block (Russian)
Flight Safety Office
Galley Iodine Removal Assembly
Guidance, Navigation, and Control
General Purpose Computer
Global Positioning System
Inertial Measurement Unit
International Space Station
Internal Thermal Control System
Launch Control Officer
Low Iodine Residual System
Loss of Crew
Loss of Vehicle
Minimum Duration Flight
Master Events Controller
Main Landing Gear
Micro-Meteoroid Orbital Debris
Marshall Space Flight Center
NASA Standard Initiator
Office of Safety & Mission Assurance (NASA HQ)
Protuberance Air Load
Precision Approach Path Indicator
Primary Avionics Software System
Pyrotechnic Initiator Controller
Partial Pressure of CO2
Reaction Control System/Subsystem
Remote Manipulator System
Russia or Russian
Return to Launch Site
Safety & Mission Assurance
Solid Fuel Oxygen Generator
Solid Rocket Booster
Condensate Water Processor Unit (Russian)
Space Shuttle Main Engine
Space Shuttle Program
Thermal Protection System
Loss of Crew
Other significant STS TPS anomalies:
STS-6, 41B, 51G, 27*, 28, 40, 42, 45
*Most severe tile damage to date.
STS-107 (Columbia) 2/1/2003
ISS Increment 38 12/1/2013
Soyuz TM-9 2/11/1990
Related or Recurring event
Other Thermal Protection System Damage Events
In addition to the Thermal Protection System (TPS) damage on STS-1, STS-51D, and STS-107, the following Space Shuttle flights experienced TPS damage:
STS-6 (April 1983)
STS-41B (February 1984)
STS-51G (June 1985)
STS-27 (December 1988)
STS-28 (August 1989)
STS-40 (June 1991)
STS-42 (January 1992)
STS-45 (March 1992)
Additional information can be found in the reports linked below.
STS-6 Mission Report STS-41B MER Report STS-41B Mission Report STS-51G MER Report STS-51G Mission Report STS-27 MER Report STS-27 Mission Report STS-27 Close Call STS-28 Mission Safety Eval Record STS-28 MER Report STS-28 Mission Report STS-40 Debris, Ice, TPS Assessment STS-40 Mission Safety Evaluation STS-40 Mission Report STS-42 Debris, Ice, TPS Assessment STS-42 Mission Report
STS-1 | 4/14/1981 | Crew: 2 | Related or Recurring event
Right-hand main landing gear door warped due to entry heating.
On April 14, 1981 the right-hand main landing gear door warped due to entry heating. A forward facing step, a tile gap, a tile-to-filler bar gap and an inadequate flow restrictor resulted in excessive gap heating on the forward portion of the right main landing gear door. This excessive heating resulted in severe tile sidewall shrinkage (on four tiles), a charred filler bar, and a localized buckle in the door structure. The structure and Thermal Protection System on the door was refurbished, and the flow restrictor was modified to increase the effectiveness of the Thermal Protection System in the area of the main landing gear doors.
STS-51D | 4/19/1985 | Crew: 7 | Related or Recurring event
TPS burn-through on left outboard elevon.
The post-flight inspection of the Thermal Protection System (TPS) revealed that significant damage occurred during landing on April 19, 1985.
The outboard end of the left-hand lower outboard elevon had received significant heat damage, specifically the outboard forward corner of the elevon lower-honeycomb outer-face-sheet. This area was buckled and delaminated and had two small burn-through holes. The outboard elevon lower-leading-edge tile-carrier panel was completely melted under the outboard tile, and a hole was melted in the elevon-cove primary-seal support plate. Because of the damage the lower-outboard carrier-panel outermost tile fell onto the runway when the elevon was deflected upward after landing.
Evidence indicates that the entry plasma flow entered the inboard gap of the outboard tile, then progressed under the tile flowing outboard, where eventually the tile-attachment strain isolation pad was burned, allowing the tile to become loose. This allowed more plasma flow under the tile, resulting in the melting of the aluminum carrier panel, primary seal panel structure, and elevon honeycomb outer face sheet, as well as the melting of two tiles aft of the plasma entry point and two elevon sidewall tiles. The cause of the TPS and structural damage that occurred during descent has not been positively identified. The most probable cause is an out-of-spec step or gap in the lower wing surface forward of the elevon leading edge. It is believed that this flow path may have existed for the two previous flights, with progressive deterioration of the bond, but was not evident from outside inspection of this area during post-flight inspections.
A requirement was established to remove the outboard leading-edge carrier-panel on each side of all orbiters for detailed inspection after the next several flights. In addition, a more comprehensive detailed inspection of each outboard elevon/wing area was accomplished during the normal TPS post-flight inspections.
STS-107 (Columbia) | 2/1/2003 | Crew: 1 | Loss of Crew | Related or Recurring event
TPS damage from ascent debris strike resulted in loss of crew and vehicle on entry. Similar bipod ramp foam loss occurred on STS-7, STS-32, STS-50, STS-52, STS-62, and STS-112.
Damage to the Thermal Protection System from a debris strike on ascent resulted in the loss of crew and vehicle on entry on February 1, 2003.
At 81.7 seconds Mission Elapsed Time a piece of foam insulation from the External Tank (ET) left bipod ramp separated from the ET and struck the orbiter left wing leading edge in the vicinity of the lower half of reinforced carbon-carbon (RCC) panel #8, causing a breach in the RCC. During re-entry this breach allowed super-heated air to penetrate through the leading edge insulation and progressively melt the aluminum structure of the left wing, resulting in a weakening of the structure until increasing aerodynamic forces caused loss of control, failure of the wing, and break-up of the orbiter. This breakup occurred in a flight regime in which, given the design of the orbiter, there was no possibility for the crew to survive. (Similar bipod ramp foam releases prior to STS-107 occurred on STS-7, STS-32, STS-50, STS-52, STS-62, and STS-112.
Seven crew members were lost.
ISS Increment 38 | 12/1/2013 | Crew: 6
ITCS configuration errors resulted in near freezing and potential rupture of water-to-ammonia heat exchanger.
On December 11, 2013 the failure of a flow control valve in the pump module of the External Thermal Control System (ETCS) and subsequent Internal Thermal Control System (ITCS) reconfiguration led to a drop in water temperature to nearly freezing in the Columbus module's Moderate Temperature Heat Exchanger (MTHX). If the water in the Interface Heat Exchanger (IFHX) had frozen, the expansion could have ruptured the barrier between the ITCS and the ETCS. A rupture of this barrier could allow ammonia to enter the interior crew portions of the ISS, causing a potential loss of crew/loss of vehicle.
STS-114 | 5/26/2006 | Crew: 7
Bird strike on External Tank.
Loss of foam from External Tank PAL ramp.
TPS gap filers protruding. Removed during third mission EVA.
Missing O-ring resulted in ejection of one of two NSIs, compromising the ET forward
separation bolt function and damaging secondary structure and a thermal blanket.
STS-114 encountered four close-call events.
STS-117 | 6/8/2007 | Crew: 7
Thermal blanket damage. EVA performed to repair damage.
On June 8, 2007 during ascent, a thermal blanket covering the port orbital maneuvering system (OMS) pod was damaged.
An unplanned extravehicular activity, a high risk operation, was performed to repair the damaged blanket, so the blanket could effectively prevent potential damage to the vehicle from heating during entry. Failure of the thermal protection during entry could have resulted in overheating of the OMS and catastrophic structural failure of the vehicle and loss of crew.
The blanket was repaired by inserting pins between the thermal blanket and the surrounding shuttle tiles. A surgical stapler was also used in fastening the two thermal blankets together.
Soyuz TM-9 | 2/11/1990 | Crew: 2
DM insulation torn loose on ascent; contingency EVA repair.
During the docking of Soyuz TM-9 on February 11, 1990, the TM-8 crew aboard Mir noticed three of the eight descent module's thermal blankets had partially detached near the heat shield during ascent. This raised five concerns:
A rescue mission with a cosmonaut aboard Soyuz-TM 10 was considered, but not executed. The temperature of TM-9 was stabilized by the Mir directing it into alignment with the sun.
Four months later, the Kristall module (90-048A) arrived with the special tools needed to repair the decent module. Cosmonauts were able to secure the blankets out of the sensor's line of sight after an EVA longer than seven hours. The success of the EVA led to a nominal entry upon mission completion.
Crew Injury/Illness and/or Loss of Vehicle or Mission
Related or Recurring event
TPS Entry Events (1981-2003)
LANDING & POSTLANDING