- Restrictions on Access:
- Unclassified, Unlimited, Publicly available.
- The Space Shuttle Reusable Solid Rocket Motor (RSRM) uses an internal insulation J-joint design for the mated insulation interface between two assembled RSRM segments. In this assembled (mated) segment configuration, this J-joint design serves as a thermal barrier to prevent hot gases from affecting the case field joint metal surfaces and O-rings. A pressure sensitive adhesive (PSA) provides some adhesion between the two mated insulation surfaces. In 1995, after extensive testing, a new ODC-free PSA (free of ozone depleting chemicals) was selected for flight on RSRM-55 (STS-78). Post-flight inspection revealed that the J-joint, equipped with the new ODC-free PSA, did not perform well. Hot gas seeped inside the J-joint interface. Although not a flight safety threat, the J-joint hot gas intrusion on RSRM-55 was a mystery to the investigators since the PSA had previously worked well on a full-scale static test. A team was assembled to study the J-joint and PSA further. All J-joint design parameters, measured data, and historical performance data were re-reviewed and evaluated by subscale testing and analysis. Although both the ODC-free and old PSA were weakened by humidity, the ODC-free PSA strength was lower to start with. Another RSRM full-scale static test was conducted in 1998 and intentionally duplicated the gas intrusion. This test, along with many concurring tests, showed that if a J-joint was 1) mated with the new ODC-free PSA, 2) exposed to a history of high humidity (Kennedy Space Center levels), and 3) also a joint which experienced significant but normal joint motion (J-joint deformation resulting from motor pressurization dynamics) then that J-joint would open (allow gas intrusion) during motor operation. When all of the data from the analyses, subscale tests, and full-scale tests were considered together, a theory emerged. Most of the joint motion on the RSRM occurs early in motor operation at which point the J-joints are pulled into tension. If the new PSA has been weakened due to humidity, then the J-joint will partially pull apart (inboard side), and the J-joint surfaces will be charred by exposure to hot gases. After early operation, a J-joint that has been pulled apart will come back together as the J-joint deformation decreases. This J-joint heating event is relatively short and occurs only during the first part of motor operation. Internal instrumentation was developed for another full-scale static test in February 2000. The static test instrumentation did indeed prove this theory to be correct. Post-test inspection revealed very similar charring characteristics as observed on RSRM-55. This experience of the development of a new PSA, its testing, the RSRM-55 flight, followed by the J-joint investigation led to good 'lessons learned' and to an additional fundamental understanding of the RSRM J-joint function.
- NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS) Collection.
- Document ID: 20030065874.
AIAA Paper 2003-5108.
39th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conferece; 20-23 Jul. 2003; Huntsville, AL; United States.
- Copyright, Distribution as joint owner in the copyright.
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