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  #1  
Old 09-30-2005, 12:07 AM
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Markings on the shuttle

Hi everyone,

Y'all are usually pretty smart with your answers. Maybe you can answer this:

All of Nasa's crafts, whether rockets or shuttles, have unusual black and white markings. In the case of a rocket, it's often bars of black then white then black, all around the ship near the nose cone. On the shuttle there are weird black and white curves all over the place.

I'm sure this has some meaning other than looking pretty. When I asked a girl at the Space Center at Houston, she had no idea. Do any of you know - or care to hazard a guess?

Thanks
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  #2  
Old 09-30-2005, 12:19 AM
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What curves are you referring to?

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Old 09-30-2005, 12:37 AM
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I'm gonna take a wild guess here, but it looks to me that the black areas are the most affected by heat/friction. Black bodies and white bodies react differently to heat, so by placeing black in "special" areas, they can distribute the thermal loading much better.

or it is simply a different material from the rest that can't be made in white.

Really good question though.
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Old 09-30-2005, 02:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by icemanjs4
Hi everyone,



I'm sure this has some meaning other than looking pretty. When I asked a girl at the Space Center at Houston, she had no idea. Do any of you know - or care to hazard a guess?

Thanks
I will also ask what curves are you talking about . Ask MTV's Pimp my ride bet they will know
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Last edited by patdynasty3; 09-30-2005 at 02:36 AM.
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  #5  
Old 09-30-2005, 05:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by icemanjs4
Hi everyone,

Y'all are usually pretty smart with your answers. Maybe you can answer this:

All of Nasa's crafts, whether rockets or shuttles, have unusual black and white markings. In the case of a rocket, it's often bars of black then white then black, all around the ship near the nose cone. On the shuttle there are weird black and white curves all over the place.

I'm sure this has some meaning other than looking pretty. When I asked a girl at the Space Center at Houston, she had no idea. Do any of you know - or care to hazard a guess?

Thanks
The strips on rocket nose cones are to allow visual recognition of the rocket attitudes, ie, is the rocket rotating to keep stability, etc...

The shuttle black markings are the thermal tiles.

More answers from the cronies at JSC...

http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/shuttle/reference/sodb/
Select the fist links for the left & right side of the orbiter: moldline penetrations/access panels/markings shows some of the thruster markings (these are curved, and it might be what you are looking for).

Some of it is to be able to understand the configuration of a vehicle during flight, particularly during launch. If a completely white vehicle rolls and pitches during the launch phase, it's essentially impossible to know it's orientation. However, if you put some distinctive markings, the orientation of vehicle can be determined at all times, and from a significant distance.

The markings on the rocket provide high-contrast reference marks to help in the visual and photogrammetric analysis of yaw, pitch, and roll. The shuttle markings are driven by thermal requirements, depending on whether the desire for the given location is either to absorb or reflect thermal energy.

I don't know for sure so not answering to all, but I am pretty sure its thermally related

Donna - does Mark know?

I always thought it was to provide contrast marking for photography and visual tracking.

Unmanned spacecraft often use black and white stick-on panels to regulate heat energy inside the spacecraft, i.e., black absorbs radiant/solar energy, white reflects. A specific pattern is determined by the amount of solar incidence the spacecraft will see in orbit and that depends on altitude, inclination, time of year, and, of course, how sensitive the spacecraft systems are to heat.

I'm not aware of Shuttle use of anything similar, so he must be simply referring to the transition between the black underbelly/nosecone areas (HRSI/tile and RCC) and the white upper areas (LRSI, AFRSI and FRSI). It's most noticeable on the vertical stabilizer which does have black and white stripes, but they are for re-entry heat protection on upper surfaces, not solar energy. Gordo

My guess is that the markings have two purposes.

1) The paint scheme is selected to satisfy passive thermal control requirements. Get into a white car on a hot day and then compare it to getting into a black car on a hot day. Some areas under the skin of a rocket need to get rid of heat and some need to accept heat.

2) When rockets are launched, especially when they are new, lots of cameras are gathering still and moving images. The paint scheme images are used to support imagery analysis to determine anomalous changes in the external components (nose cones staying in place? foam and tiles falling off?) and are used to support photogrammetry analysis to determine orientation and position changes. In other words, to help determine the path and attitude of the rocket. The ISS assembly process is helped by the photogrammetry processing of video images of the black and white targets that are pasted all over the elements. It's called Space Vision System in this case.

I believe they are used for camera tracking.

With me having spent some time in Hutsville, I saw several rockets with alternating markings. They are designed to provide rotational referencing during liftoff. If the rocket was uniform in color, you couldn’t readily tell if it was spinning out of control. The odd shape of the shuttle with the SRBs and the ET doesn't require this referencing system.

Depends exactly what white and black markings he is referring to. On the Apollo-Saturn, and on the Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters, the black markings are used for optical tracking/photography - they show the orientation of the vehicle so we know which side we are looking at (the left and right Shuttle SRBs are marked differently so we also know which SRB we are seeing). On the Shuttle Orbiter, the white and black are simply the different thermal Protection System materials (the black tiles for high-heat areas; the white tiles and blankets for lower heat areas).

This was started by the German V series research project during WWII.

The shuttle colors are for enhanced heat absorbsion. For rockets, it's probably either to look pretty or the enhance visibility.

The older rockets had markings on them to visually determine the pitch, yaw, and roll from ground observations. This data was compared to the expected pitch, yaw, and roll.

The shuttle has black and white markings only due to the fact of determining between the different types of tiles for maintenance, and visual inspection.

I believe is was aid was to aid the visual tracking of the rocket during ascent.

For the shuttle markings (black vs white) are related to thermal protection. The different colors are related to the temperatures the vehicle will see during flight. There's even a silvery color for the really high temp areas (RCC) along the nose and leading edges.

For older vehicles, the markings were there to identify different stages and/or side of the vehicle. You could identify one panel from another based on the color scheme. Easier than looking at a picture of an all-white vehicle an trying to determine where a panel or item failed or fell off.

Hope this helps.

Jim W
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Last edited by Dave 330i; 09-30-2005 at 08:52 AM.
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  #6  
Old 09-30-2005, 05:47 AM
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Here's my undeducated guess:

Space Shuttle, those are the thermal tiles.
Rockets: I'm guessing to help keep a visual on the rocket as it goes up and or to to differentiate where the different stages/seperation points on the rocket are.

edit: daves edit gives me +1 pts for my uneducated guess. I feel so smart today!
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  #7  
Old 09-30-2005, 06:52 AM
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You could believe those other scientific mumbo-jumbo explanations, but in my opinion, they did that for one and one specific reason only:

It looks cool.

Because after all, "Image Is Everything"

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Old 09-30-2005, 09:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by icemanjs4
Hi everyone,

Y'all are usually pretty smart with your answers. Maybe you can answer this:

All of Nasa's crafts, whether rockets or shuttles, have unusual black and white markings. In the case of a rocket, it's often bars of black then white then black, all around the ship near the nose cone. On the shuttle there are weird black and white curves all over the place.

I'm sure this has some meaning other than looking pretty. When I asked a girl at the Space Center at Houston, she had no idea. Do any of you know - or care to hazard a guess?

Thanks

Pffft. This is too easy.

















They are barcodes for alien's scanners.
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  #9  
Old 09-30-2005, 03:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by machmeter
What curves are you referring to?

Thanks for the useful (and not so useful) replies. I had a feeling Dave330 was going to reply (hey when LDV330, Afshawnt, and I were in Houston, LDV thought he saw your car in the NASA parking lot - turns out he was wrong).

As for the shuttle markings, yes part of it wa swondering why the nose cone was black, and yet had a sharp cutoff to white at an odd angle. But part of it was looking at those weird circles painted on the side of the nose cone (I believe they're white circles or ovals in the black). In fact if you get a higher res photo, you can probably see lots of interesting shapes painted in. I can't imagine that those are for heat protection. I'll see if I can find a better pic

OK I found one. Check out these weird ovals. and the large white cutout in the center too.
http://www.michaelp.org/photos/kennedy_space_center/nose_of_space_shuttle_explorer_mock_up.jpg
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Old 09-30-2005, 03:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by icemanjs4
Thanks for the useful (and not so useful) replies. I had a feeling Dave330 was going to reply (hey when LDV330, Afshawnt, and I were in Houston, LDV thought he saw your car in the NASA parking lot - turns out he was wrong).

As for the shuttle markings, yes part of it wa swondering why the nose cone was black, and yet had a sharp cutoff to white at an odd angle. But part of it was looking at those weird circles painted on the side of the nose cone (I believe they're white circles or ovals in the black). In fact if you get a higher res photo, you can probably see lots of interesting shapes painted in. I can't imagine that those are for heat protection. I'll see if I can find a better pic

OK I found one. Check out these weird ovals. and the large white cutout in the center too.
http://www.michaelp.org/photos/kennedy_space_center/nose_of_space_shuttle_explorer_mock_up.jpg
Go to the website found in post #5.
Those round circles you are talking about are thrusters for attitude control. The black/white may be for establishing the correct absorption and emission factors to get the proper operating temperatures when the sun hits that area.
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Last edited by Dave 330i; 09-30-2005 at 03:51 PM.
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Old 09-30-2005, 10:17 PM
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The black areas on the shuttle are high temperature thermal protection tiles that keep it from burning up on re-entry into the atmosphere. The nose, leading and trailing edges of the wings, tail and rudder, the small spot on the engine covering and the whole bottom of the craft are the 'hot spots.'

Remember when the shuttle Columbia burned up on re-entry? That happened because during the launch a large chunk of the foam insulation from the main fuel tank broke off, hit and damaged some of the tiles on the leading edge of the left wing. Upon re-entry the extreme heat caused by friction with the air burned through the exposed/unprotected area causing catastrophic failure of the wing.

The tiles are very expensive and are only held on with a special adhesive (basically they are 'glued' on) and I believe no 2 tiles are the same shape. Each one is custom fitted to a particular area on the shuttle. A friend of mine's uncle worked on developing the adhesive.

Edit:
Space Shuttle Tiles

Here is a CNN article (Feb. 3, 2003) about the space shuttle tiles. It indicates that the tiles are made of a silica fiber compound, a material derived from common sand. The fibers are mixed with deionized water and other chemicals and poured into a plastic mold, where excess liquid is squeezed out. They are then baked in the nation's largest microwave, in Sunnyvale, California, and fused in a 2,350 degree oven.

This short NASA note written in 1997 indicates that their value is between $1000 and $4000, although they are not for sale.

A materials chemistry article states that "the tiles consist of fine glass fibers organized in an open cellular pattern, so that tiny spaces account for 95% of their volume".

The black areas on the Orbiter are covered with blocks or tiles of varying size and thickness. These are called "high-temperature reusable surface insulation", or HRSI tiles. HRSI tiles protect areas where temperatures are between 650?C (1200?F) and 1275?C (2300?F).
On Columbia, white tiles cover the forward fuselage, outer wing areas, pods, and the stabilizer. Called "low-temperature reusable surface insulation", or LRSI, these tiles are used where temperatures are between 370?C (700?F) and 650?C (1200?F).


Columbia's cargo-bay doors, fuselage sides, upper wing surfaces, and aft areas of the OMS pods are covered with a Nomex felt material. These areas remain below 370?C (700?F) during flight.

Altogether, nearly 32,000 HRSI and LRSI tiles cover Columbia. No two tiles are alike and each must be installed by hand. Both types of tiles are made from extremely pure (99.5%) sand. The sand is crushed into very small silica fibers and added to a ceramic binder. This mixture is fired to produce the blocks. They are machined to the proper size and shape, then the black or white coating is applied to their outer surfaces. The coating is made from a high-strength refractory glass.

An aluminum structure like that of the Orbiter flexes and bends slightly in flight. The TPS (thermal protection system) tiles covering the vehicle must be very close together. On the underside, the largest allowable gap between tiles is only 0.065" (1.6 mm). These glass-covered silica tiles are rather brittle and cannot flex or bend without breaking. To let the structure flex while keeping the TPS rigid, Nomex felt pads are sandwiched between the tiles and the structure. This way, the structure can move without moving the tiles. The pads and the tiles are attached with a thin layer of a room temperature vulcanizing silicon adhesive.

As for the markings on rockets I agree they are used for rotation and attitude observations.
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Last edited by Ishniknork; 09-30-2005 at 11:07 PM. Reason: Found some info on this
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