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Microwave and Millimeter Wave Nondestructive Testing of the Space Shuttle External Tank Insulating Foam

The space shuttle Columbia’s catastrophic failure has been attributed to a piece of external fuel tank insulating foam (spray on foam insulation) striking the leading edge of the left wing of the orbiter causing significant damage to some of the protecting heat tiles. The accident emphasizes the growing need to develop effective, robust and life cycle oriented methods of nondestructive testing (NDT) of complex conductor backed insulating foam and protective acreage heat tiles used in the space shuttle fleet and in future multilaunch space vehicles. The insulating spray on foam is constructed from closed cell foam

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