Figure 1 depicts mockups of lightweight metal heat-shield panels that have been proposed for use on spacecraft of the reusable-launch-vehicle type. These panels are designed for simplicity of insertion and removal. The design could also be adapted to both insulating and noninsulating panels in nonspacecraft applications.

Figure 1. Panels Overlap and thus interlock in a two-dimensional shingle-like pattern. However, the interlock can be removed locally, to enable insertion or removal of a given panel, by simply sliding the overlapping parts of two adjacent panels out of the way.
Each panel includes a thin front (outer) face sheet bonded to a thicker insulating block. The insulating block occupies an area slightly smaller than that of the face sheet and is located off center on the rear (inside) surface of the face sheet in such a way as to leave flange areas on two sides of the face sheet.

The panels are installed on stand-off brackets on a framework, as shown in Figure 2. When installation is complete, the two flanges of each panel overlap the nonflanged edge areas of two adjacent panels. In other words, the panels are overlapped in a two-dimensional (2D) generalization of the common shingling pattern.

Figure 2. Panels Are Supported on a framework in such a way that they can be slid aside to insert or remove one panel without having to insert or remove others at the same time.
The overlap creates an interlock that, in the case of a simple shingling arrangement, would make it necessary to remove many other panels in order to replace a given panel. However, unlike a simple shingling arrangement, this design provides for the removal of any given single panel without having to remove other panels; the panels, framework, and stand-off brackets are configured so that the panels can slide over each other in the front-surface plane. All one need do to remove the interlock from a given panel (e.g., the middle panel in Figure 1) is to push the overlapping adjacent panels to slide their flanges off the given panel.

This work was done by Dalton Nguyen of Marshall Space Flight Center. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at  under the Mechanics category.


NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the October, 2001 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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