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Silica Space Shuttle thermal protection (TPS) tile, c 1980.

Silica Space Shuttle thermal protection (TPS) tile, c 1980.
3 3 c m
actual image size: 32cm x 25cm


These tiles are used to insulate the Space Shuttle from the high temperatures generated by the orbiter's friction with the Earth's atmosphere on re-entry. The black tiles on the lower portion of the Shuttle have to be able to withstand temperatures of more than 2300 degrees Fahrenheit (F), but these particular tiles are used to protect areas where the temperatures experienced are les than 1200 degrees F. Silica is used because of its durability and resistance to extremely high temperatures. The Space Shuttle, the world's first partially reusable launch vehicle, first flew on 12th April 1981 and has been used for all America's manned space misions ever since. Made by Rockwell.

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© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library

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