A humorous memoir describing my childhood interest in airplanes and rockets that led to an aerospace career starting with Space Shuttle wind tunnel and rocket testing and the pinnacle, launching satellites.
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Get the inside scoop on the U.S. space program from an aerospace engineer with more than three decades of experience.
Bill Dye’s boyhood passion for airplanes and rockets, fueled by his parents’ encouragement, launched him into an exciting, fulfilling career in aerospace.
In his often humorous, always entertaining memoir, you’ll discover how a kid who wins science fairs and fires off homemade rockets ends up directing the design and development of several spacecraft—including IKONOS, an earth observation satellite that changed the world.
Our wind tunnel testing also included dynamics testing. There was a concern that these tiles, reported to be quite fragile, would crack or get shaken off the Orbiter from the vibration and from the aerodynamic forces. So they devised a wind tunnel test that would use the actual tiles.
Some guy from Lockheed brought down a sample tile, a real one, for us to examine and to be sure we were making the wind tunnel model to correctly match the dimensions of the tiles.
The guy carried a bright silver, very sturdy-looking metal briefcase. He carefully opened the latches and lifted the lid. Black foam lay beneath. There on the bottom half of the brief case was a very white square. It looked like a flat, white bathroom tile. He donned some white gloves and lifted it from the case by the corners. It was then we could see that it was only a few inches thick. He lifted it like it was nitroglycerin and gently set it on the desk. The Lockheed guy turned to answer a question from someone. While he was turned away, one of the guys couldn’t resist and he lightly tapped the center of the tile. It shattered into a thousand pieces! Someone yelled, “Uh-oh!”
“What did you do!?” the Lockheed guy yelled as he spun around.
“Nothing; I just touched it!” he said.
“You broke it. Why did you do that?”
I said, “Hey, I watched him, he touched it like it was tissue paper.”
He got the foam-lined suit case and scraped the body fragments and dust back into the case, snapped it closed, and left mumbling something about bumbling North American Rockwell engineers.
Six weeks later an article in Aviation Week said that Lockheed missed their tile delivery schedule since they had a “brittleness” issue.