We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Told you so

A couple of days ago I noted it is not unusual for the USAF to use the landing shuttle as a test target for their space defense optical systems. They did so this time as well and are reported to have seen major wing damage.

I’d love to see those photos, but I would say there is a fair chance it would take a security clearance to do so unless they were taken by something non-black and not even “grey”.

ANOTHER ONE: While I was not the one to first note this, I did report it early on. Insulation hits began causing tile damage after NASA switched to an “environmentally friendly” (read that as Astronaut killing) non-CFC based material.

EXTRA! Reader GK Elliot pointed me to this Craig Covault article on the story.

7 comments to Told you so

  • GKElliott

    CNN is qquoting from a report in Aviation Week & Space Technology.

    “The damage to the left wing indicates either a small structural breach, such as a crack, or that a small piece of the wing’s leading edge fell off, according to the magazine. “

  • GKElliott

    Here’s the Aviation Week piece.

  • Walter E. Wallis

    While a 2 pound piece of foam insulation might not do too much damage, imagine a flaw in the ET insulation that allows frost to form under the foam, so the flake-off might have been several pounds of ice as well as the insulation.

  • Dave Farrell

    Well, I dunno. Nasa is now revisiting the foam debris theory and running tests. Plus today I saw a piece talking about the possibility being examined that so-called “sprites” caused the damage — electromagnetic phenomena high in the atmosphere — based on the “orange flash with purple tinge” seen flashing across the contrail and photographed by an amateur astronomer in the SF Bay area before the break-up.

    Nobody knows anything, really, it seems.

  • Dale Amon


    Well, the USAF cameras are showing wing root damage on the carbon-carbon leading edge TPS. That looks like a smoking gun to me.

    As to the orange… sprites are barely visible in the best of conditions. I suggest you look at what materials turn a blow torch flame orange. Because if they lost TPS on the leading edge port wing root, that’s just what you had. A cutting torch working starting at the front of the wing and cutting it’s way back until the main spar breaks.

    I don’t doubt the sci.space guys (hell I’ve known most of them for decades); it does seem to have been one of the last of the previous style tank. But the question is when the insulation is added. I should think it would be later. Foam insulation doesn’t age well, and beside which will be damaged with the handling required to ship those things.

    I’m suggesting that both are true: it is the last of the previous tank batch, and it has the new PCFoam. What I read seems to back up both assertions, but I can’t tell you more than that.

  • Trent Telenko


    The problem I have getting my mind around is if the shuttle’s wing root carbon-carbon leading edge TPS was damages upon lift off. Why didn’t the Shuttle go down sooner?

    Damage to the joints between the leading edge panels should have brought the Columbia down over California and not Texas.

    I have the distinct impression that this was a multiple cause cascading malfunction. No one thing was enough to bring down the Columbia, but together there was enough to bring it down.

    And yes, I do think that upper atmosphere sprites had something to do with all of this.

  • Trent Telenko


    Please go to the link below from the Freerepublic.com. It has an eyewitness observation of the effects of a shuttle tile burn through on a Shuttle elevon.

    You may want to skim the whole thread as well.