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Forward Fuselage

The forward fuselage consists of the upper and lower fuselages. It houses the crew compartment and supports the forward reaction control system module, nose cap, nose gear wheel well, nose gear and nose gear doors.

The forward fuselage is constructed of conventional 2024 aluminum alloy skin-stringer panels, frames and bulkheads. The panels are single curvature and stretch-formed skins with riveted stringers spaced 3 to 5 inches apart. The frames are riveted to the skin-stringer panels. The major frames are spaced 30 to 36 inches apart. The Yo 378 upper forward bulkhead is constructed of flat aluminum and formed sections riveted and bolted together; the lower is a machined section. The bulkhead provides the interface fitting for the nose section.

The nose section contains large machined beams and struts. The structure for the nose landing gear wheel well consists of two support beams, two upper closeout webs, drag-link support struts, nose landing gear strut and actuator attachment fittings, and the nose landing gear door fittings. The left and right landing gear doors are attached by hinge fittings in the nose section. The doors are constructed of aluminum alloy honeycomb, and although the doors are the same length, the left door is wider than the right. Each door has an up-latch fitting at the forward and aft ends to lock the door closed when the gear is retracted, and each has a pressure seal in addition to a thermal barrier. Lead ballast in the nose wheel well and on the Xo 378 bulkhead provides weight and center-of-gravity control. The nose wheel well will accommodate 1,350 pounds of ballast, and the Xo 378 bulkhead will accommodate a maximum of 2,660 pounds.

The forward fuselage carries the basic body-bending loads (a tendency to change the radius of a curvature of the body) and reacts nose landing gear loads.

The forward fuselage is covered with reusable insulation, except for the six windshields, two overhead windows and side hatch window areas around the forward RCS engines. The nose cap is also a reusable thermal protection system. It is constructed of reinforced carbon-carbon and has thermal barriers at the nose cap-structure interface.

The forward fuselage skin has structural provisions for installing antennas, deployable air data probes and the door eyelet openings for the two star trackers. Two openings are required in the upper forward fuselage for star tracker viewing. Each opening has a door for environmental control.

The forward orbiter/external tank attach fitting is at the Xo 378 bulkhead and the skin panel structure aft of the nose gear wheel well. Purge and vent control is provided by flexible boots between the forward fuselage and crew compartment around the windshield windows, overhead observation window, crew hatch window and star tracker openings. The forward fuselage is isolated from the payload bay by a flexible membrane between the forward fuselage and crew compartment at Xo 582.

Six forward outer pane windshields are installed on the forward fuselage. They are described in the section on windows. The window structural frames in the forward fuselage are five-axis machined parts.

The forward RCS module is constructed of conventional 2024 aluminum alloy skin-stringer panels and frames. The panels are composed of single-curvature and stretch-formed skins with riveted stringers. The frames are riveted to the skin-stringer panels. The forward RCS module is secured to the forward fuselage nose section and forward bulkhead of the forward fuselage with 16 fasteners, which permit the installation and removal of the module. The components of the forward RCS are mounted and attached to the module, which will have a reusable thermal protection cover, in addition to thermal barriers installed around it and the RCS engine interfaces and the interface-attachment area to the forward fuselage.

The forward fuselage and forward RCS module are built by Rockwell's Space Transportation Systems Division, Downey, Calif.


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