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Aft Fuselage

The aft fuselage consists of an outer shell, thrust structure and internal secondary structure. It is approximately 18 feet long, 22 feet wide and 20 feet high.

The aft fuselage supports and interfaces with the left-hand and right-hand aft orbital maneuvering system/reaction control system pods, the wing aft spar, midfuselage, orbiter/external tank rear attachments, space shuttle main engines, aft heat shield, body flap, vertical tail and two T-0 launch umbilical panels.

The aft fuselage provides the load path to the midfuselage main longerons, main wing spar continuity across the forward bulkhead of the aft fuselage, structural support for the body flap, and structural housing around all internal systems for protection from operational environments (pressure, thermal and acoustic) and controlled internal pressures during flight.

The forward bulkhead closes off the aft fuselage from the midfuselage and is composed of machined and beaded sheet metal aluminum segments. The upper portion of the bulkhead attaches to the front spar of the vertical tail.

The internal thrust structure supports the three SSMEs. The upper section of the thrust structure supports the upper SSME, and the lower section of the thrust structure supports the two lower SSMEs. The internal thrust structure includes the SSMEs, load reaction truss structures, engine interface fittings and the actuator support structure. It supports the SSMEs, the SSME low-pressure turbopumps and propellant lines. The two orbiter/external tank aft attach points interface at the longeron fittings.

The internal thrust structure is composed mainly of 28 machined, diffusion-bonded truss members. In diffusion bonding, titanium strips are bonded together under heat, pressure and time. This fuses the titanium strips into a single hollow, homogeneous mass that is lighter and stronger than a forged part. In looking at the cross section of a diffusion bond, one sees no weld line. It is a homogeneous parent metal, yet composed of pieces joined by diffusion bonding. (In OV-105, the internal thrust structure is a forging.) In selected areas, the titanium construction is reinforced with boron/epoxy tubular struts to minimize weight and add stiffness. This reduced the weight by 21 percent, approximately 900 pounds.

The upper thrust structure of the aft fuselage is of integral-machined aluminum construction with aluminum frames except for the vertical fin support frame, which is titanium. The skin panels are integrally machined aluminum and attach to each side of the vertical fin to react drag and torsion loading.

The outer shell of the aft fuselage is constructed of integral-machined aluminum. Various penetrations are provided in the shell for access to installed systems. The exposed outer areas of the aft fuselage are covered with reusable thermal protection system.

The secondary structure of the aft fuselage is of conventional aluminum construction except that titanium and fiberglass are used for thermal isolation of equipment. The aft fuselage secondary structures consist of brackets, buildup webs, truss members, and machined fittings, as required by system loading and support constraints. Certain system components, such as the avionics shelves, are shock-mounted to the secondary structure. The secondary structure includes support provisions for the auxiliary power units, hydraulics, ammonia boiler, flash evaporator and electrical wire runs.

The two external tank umbilical areas interface with the orbiter's two aft external tank attach points and the external tank's liquid oxygen and hydrogen feed lines and electrical wire runs. The umbilicals are retracted, and the umbilical areas are closed off after external tank separation by an electromechanically operated beryllium door at each umbilical. Thermal barriers are employed at each umbilical door. The exposed area of each closed door is covered with reusable surface insulation.

The aft fuselage heat shield and seal provide a closeout of the orbiter aft base area. The aft heat shield consists of a base heat shield of machined aluminum. Attached to the base heat shield are domes of honeycomb construction that support flexible and sliding seal assemblies. The engine-mounted heat shield is of Inconel honeycomb construction and is removable for access to the main engine power heads. The heat shield is covered with a reusable thermal protection system except for the Inconel segments.


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