These original Kirt's Cogitations™
may be reproduced (no more than 5, please) provided proper credit is given to me, Kirt
– noun: Concerted thought or reflection; meditation; contemplation.
Kirt [kert] – proper noun: RF Cafe webmaster.
Did extreme environmentalism
contribute to the Columbia's demise? The Freon foaming agent for the
spray-on foam insulation used on the shuttle's main fuel tank changed
in the mid 1990s when a concern was raised about the Freon's affect
on the ozone layer. Freon worked perfectly and without a separation
failure since the inception of the shuttle program. The new foaming
agents use water and pentane, which traps moisture and subsequently
weakens the foam's adhesion to the primer on the surface of the fuel
tank. The problem is exacerbated at high altitudes due to trapped gas
expansion in the foam's cells. Numerous instances of foam swelling and
breaking off has been reported since the switch. A separated piece of
foam that struck the left wing leading edge at takeoff is the prime
suspect for causing the Columbia's reentry breakup on February 1, 2003.