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The midfuselage structure interfaces with the forward fuselage, aft fuselage and wings. It supports the payload bay doors, hinges, tie-down fittings, forward wing glove, and various orbiter system components and forms the payload bay area.

The forward and aft ends of the midfuselage are open, with reinforced skin and longerons interfacing with the bulkheads of the forward and aft fuselages. The midfuselage is primarily an aluminum structure 60 feet long, 17 feet wide and 13 feet high. It weighs approximately 13,502 pounds.

The midfuselage skins are integrally machined by numerical control. The panels above the wing glove and the wings for the forward eight bays have longitudinal T-stringers. The five aft bays have aluminum honeycomb panels. The side skins in the shadow of the wing are also numerically control machined but have vertical stiffeners.

Twelve main-frame assemblies stabilize the midfuselage structure. The assemblies consist of vertical side elements and horizontal elements. The side elements are machined; whereas the horizontal elements are boron/aluminum tubes with bonded titanium end fittings, which reduced the weight by 49 percent (approximately 305 pounds).

In the upper portion of the midfuselage are the sill and door longerons. The machined sill longerons not only make up the primary body-bending elements, but also take the longitudinal loads from payloads in the payload bay. The payload bay door longerons and associated structure are attached to the 13 payload bay door hinges. These hinges provide the vertical reaction from the payload bay doors. Five of the hinges react the payload bay door shears. The sill longeron also provides the base support for the payload bay manipulator arm (if installed) and its stowage provisions, the Ku-band rendezvous antenna, the antenna base support and its stowage provisions, and the payload bay door actuation system.

The side wall forward of the wing carry-through structure provides the inboard support for the main landing gear. The total lateral landing gear loads are reacted by the midfuselage structure.

The midfuselage also supports the two electrical wire trays that contain the wiring between the crew compartment and aft fuselage.

Plumbing and wiring in the lower portion of the midfuselage are supported by fiberglass milk stools.

The remainder of the exposed areas of the midfuselage is covered with the reusable surface insulation thermal protection system.

Because of additional detailed analysis of actual flight data concerning descent stress thermal gradient loads, torsional straps were added to the lower midfuselage stringers in bays 1 through 11. The torsional straps tie all stringers together similarly to a box section, which eliminates rotational (torsional) capabilities to provide positive margins of safety.

Also, because of additional detailed analysis of actual flight data during descent, room-temperature vulcanizing silicone rubber material was bonded to the lower midfuselage from bay 4 through 12 to act as a heat sink and distribute temperatures evenly across the bottom of the midfuselage, which will reduce thermal gradients and ensure positive margins of safety.

The contractor for the midfuselage is General Dynamics Corp., Convair Aerospace Division, San Diego, Calif.

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 04/07/2002
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