Columbia Disaster Essay

527 WordsFeb 10, 20113 Pages
Columbia Disaster ABSTRACT On re-entry the space shuttle Columbia burned up in the earth’s atmosphere and disintegrated into a maelstrom of debris that stretched across all most of Texas and Louisiana. At launch foam loss collision caused a weakened structural integrity in the left wing. The disaster killed all crew members. This disaster occurred about 40 miles above the earth’s surface only a few minutes before the shuttle was scheduled to land. AUTHOR POV The Columbia was an NASA orbiter in operation from 1981 to 2003. Upgrades were made during it’s lifecycle but more than 44% of it’s tiles and 41% of the 44 wing leading edge panels were not replaced. The external tank was built by Lockheed Martin. The tank was coated with dense composite ablators to dissipate heat and low density closed-cell foams for high insulation efficiency. These materials were used to keep oxygen and hydrogen in a liquid state and to prevent ice and frost from forming on the surface. During 79 missions the degradation of the foam was visible in 80% of cases. Foam was lost specifically from the left bipod ramp in 10% of missions when the left bipod ramp was visible after the tank had separated. In 30% of the missions foam loss couldn’t be determined due to insufficient data. It was not known why the foam loss occurred. Debris causes 143 divots to tiles during each flight on average. Majority of the divots were caused by external foam loss. Mission STS-107 was scheduled to launch in 2001, but experienced 13 delays and actually launched in 2003. The launch was successful and experiments were done during the 16 day mission. Columbia planned re-entry on February 1, 2003. As Columbia re-entered the atmosphere it began to break apart killing all on board. An investigating board of seven members was automatically convened to uncover the causes of the shuttle disaster. All materials

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