Columbia Gathers Data with LTV-built One-of-a-kind Nose Cap

This article first appeared in the January 1986 Flight Test News.

DALLAS — For the Space Shuttle Orbiter Columbia’s seventh flight into space, it will be wearing a one-of-a-kind experimental nose cap, developed and built by the Vought Missiles and Advanced Programs Division of LTV Aerospace and Defense Company.

The special nose cap assembly, known as Shuttle Entry Air Data System or SEADS, contains NASA and Rockwell International instrumentation to measure the distribution of air pressure around the nose during reentry. The cap has 14 coated columbium ports to allow pressure measurement from an altitude of 56 miles to the ground.

Pressure data gathered by SEADS is needed to define angle of attack, angle of side slip, mach number and velocity, all necessary to evaluate the spacecraft’s design capabilities. “The best place for gathering this data is at the front end of the orbiter,” said Garland Whisenhunt, the division’s director for the space shuttle. “But that was not possible until SEADS was developed because the temperatures at the front and end were too high.”

The SEADS nose cap is built of Reinforced Carbon Carbon (RCC), protecting the assembly against metal-melting temperatures as high as 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit. The wing leading edges and nose caps of all the orbiters are made of RCC which is basically an all-carbon material reinforced for strength and treated to resist oxidation.

Columbia was outfitted with SEADS during an 18-month modification at Rockwell’s Palmdale facility. Rockwell was the prime contractor to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for the space shuttle orbiter and the industrial integrator for the overall shuttle system.

This article first appeared in the January 1986 Flight Test News.

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