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PPG Donates to Shuttle Tank Project

Monday, May 2, 2016

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The last existing space shuttle external tank in the U.S. is taking an ocean voyage—and a donation from coatings manufacturer PPG is helping it to stay in top condition.

The tank, known as ET-94, is being prepared for display at the California Science Center, where the space shuttle Endeavour is already on display. It will be part of an exhibit called “Mission 26: ET Comes Home,” according to the Science Center.

ET-95 with a fresh coat of paint

PPG experts matched the coating to the tank’s dark-orange foam exterior, and the coating was applied with rollers and brushes.

It was previously being stored at a NASA assembly facility in New Orleans, necessitating a six-week ocean trip to its new home in Los Angeles. According to the Science Center, ET-94 made its way through the Panama Canal on Monday, April 25.

The tank is scheduled to arrive in Marina del Rey later this month, and will make its way through the streets of Los Angeles to the Science Center on May 21. It will be on display in the Science Center’s Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center.

Original Supplier

According to Duane Utter, PPG’s global segment manager for space and defense coatings, the Science Center reached out to PPG for help with protective coatings because Oschin Air and Space Center director Dennis R. Jenkins worked on the shuttle program and knew PPG supplied primer for the tanks originally.

“PPG was a proud partner in the space shuttle program as the supplier of the only primer qualified for the external tanks,” Utter said. “This primer passed cryogenic and corrosion testing and met requirements for foam adhesion.”

PPG donated military-grade topcoat product for the ET-94 project. PPG experts matched the coating to the tank’s dark-orange foam exterior, and the coating was applied with rollers and brushes, according to PPG.

“We wanted ET-94 to be protected from water on its voyage and to look good during its long journey to the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center,” the Science Center’s Jenkins said.

Fueling the Shuttle Program

The external tank was the “fuel tank” of the shuttle missions, holding the propellants that would power the shuttle into space. External tanks disintegrated significantly upon their fall back to Earth, and were not reusable, according to the Science Center.

The ET-94 tank that will be displayed at the California Science Center was used in the launch of the doomed Columbia shuttle mission in 2003. It is the only flight-qualified external tank from the shuttle program still in existence today.

According to the Science Center, the fuel tank, which is 154 feet long and weighs 65,000 pounds, will join Endeavour in a display of a “complete shuttle stack”—the shuttle itself, tank and rocket boosters.

The shuttle program ran from 1981-2011, and included 135 missions, according to NASA.


Tagged categories: Aerospace; NASA; PPG; Topcoats

Comment from MICHAEL DEATON, (5/2/2016, 5:55 AM)

RIP shuttle program and the men and women of the Challenger & Columbia flights!

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (5/2/2016, 11:45 AM)

Too bad Congress mandated ripping out all the beautiful re-usable Shuttle main engines to destroy them in the disposable SLS rocket.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (5/3/2016, 10:52 AM)

I hear you, Tom....but at least those wonderful achievements that were the shuttles were operational for 20+ years before being subjected to this sort of casual indignity. Canada's technological epitome of the 20th century (the Avro Arrow) didn't even get a chance to be operational before the political atom bomb was dropped on it.

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