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Assuming SpaceX would like to avoid absolute unmodularity of STS' thermal protection system, which was composed of (symmetry aside) mostly different and unique tiles. What tiling typologic strategies could be implemented so that it keeps the lowest diversity of modules, when paving one full starship, mostly regarding the paving of its nosecone?

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(source)

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  • $\begingroup$ Remember; the space shuttle was tiled only because they couldn't manufacture larger pieces of the tile material (or pieces with extreme curvature). Since, e.g., Starship's body is cylindrical, we might be able to cover it with long strips of tile . $\endgroup$ Mar 11, 2021 at 14:09
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    $\begingroup$ @qqjkztd There are short straight sections, but no grooves running the full length of the ship, as could happen with rectangular tiles. $\endgroup$
    – Ajedi32
    Mar 11, 2021 at 17:33
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    $\begingroup$ @qqjkztd A long straight groove rotated 45 degrees is still a long, straight groove. Air will take the path of least resistance. Best not to create one that goes between the heat-resistant tiles. $\endgroup$
    – Ajedi32
    Mar 11, 2021 at 18:14
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    $\begingroup$ Let's just ask Penrose :-) $\endgroup$ Mar 11, 2021 at 19:04
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    $\begingroup$ @PM2Ring great link thank you $\endgroup$
    – qq jkztd
    Mar 11, 2021 at 21:18

2 Answers 2

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It depends how much tolerance they have for gaps between tiles. Worst case they will need one type of tile for each ring of tiles around the nose cone. Not sure how many that is but it must be many dozen. On top of that a range of specialist tiles will be needed for the nose cone tip, flap tips and flap edge joins. Two or three types will be needed to cover the raceways and a similar number to protect the flap joints. Then there’s the standard tile itself and half tiles and any special tiles for leg covers (if required). Probably between 50 and 100 types of tile will be needed most of which would be on the nose cone.

Here is one potential layout for the nose cone tiles (obviously the real thing will involve many more layers.

Starship nose cone tile layout example

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  • $\begingroup$ Nice illustration which tends to show that, at this point, TPS on starship won't be modular at all, except for the cylindrical part $\endgroup$
    – qq jkztd
    Mar 11, 2021 at 16:21
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    $\begingroup$ It depends what you mean by modular. 50-100 tile types is not so much especially if you are planning dozens or even hundreds of Starships. And it certainly beats the 21000 individual tiles on the Space Shuttle. $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Mar 11, 2021 at 18:08
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The cylindrical sections can be tiled using 1 kind of tile.

For the nosecone you probably need maybe a dozen different kinds, the trick is organizing the tiles into bands where the tiles are progressively get narrower then there is a horizontal cut in the pattern (using cut hexagons) to reset the pattern and start tiling with regular hexagons again. This is evident in Ship 20's tile mounting points:

Pattern cuts on heat shield

Original image source

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