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.
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.
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 www.nasatech.com/tsp under the Mechanics category.