Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

The Heat Is On

PostedAugust 5, 2005

Download File (mp3)

The materials on the shuttle's black underside will belly flop from ice-cold space into Earth's atmosphere at about 17-thousand miles an hour.  It's an extreme shock, as friction with air molecules generates turbulent air flow and temperatures near 3-thousand degrees.  But the reinforced carbon tiles protecting Discovery's aluminum airframe are engineered to actually strengthen as temperatures rise.  And between each are those humbly-named, but high-tech, gap fillers—tough fibers designed to take the heat.  With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP Radio.