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Thermal Protection Systems

Seven different materials, chosen for their weight efficiency and stability at high temperatures, are used.

Reinforced Carbon-Carbon
RCC protects areas where temperatures exceed 2,300 degrees F during entry.

High-Temperature Reusable Surface Insulation Tiles
Black tiles are applied on areas where temperatures do not exceed 2,300 degrees F.

Fibrous Refractory Composite Insulation Tiles
Black tiles developed later in the program replace some HRCI tiles. Low-Temperature Reusable Surface Insulation Tiles White tiles are used in areas where temperatures do not exceed 1,200 degrees F.

Low-Temperature Reusable Surface Insulation Tiles
The LRSI tiles are of the same construction and have the same basic functions as the 99.8-percent-pure silica HRSI tiles, but they are thinner than HRSI tiles.

Advanced Flexible Reusable Surface Insulation Blankets
Quilted composite fabric replaced most of the LRSI tiles.

Felt Reusable Surface Insulation
Nomex felt blankets are used on the payload bay doors and other areas where temperatures do not exceed 700 degrees F.

Thermal Barriers
Various materials are used to fill in gaps.

Tile Identification
Each tile has a unique ID code.

Flags and Letters
Flags and letters are painted on.

After each flight the orbiter is rewaterproofed.

List of contractors for the thermal protection system.

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