Essay on Failure Analysis Report On Space Shuttle Columbia

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This memorandum is a failure analysis report regarding the Space Shuttle Columbia¬, the first space-rated Space Shuttle in NASA’s Orbiter fleet that disintegrated during re-entry during the end of its 28th mission on 1 February 2003 (Columbia Accident Investigation Board [CAIB], 2003, p. 39). The accident, described as a “tragedy” by former President George W. Bush, seized the lives of all seven crew-members aboard and led to a two-year suspension of the Space Shuttle Program (Bush, 2003; CAIB, 2003, p. 209). The following sections of this report outline the events leading up to and during the failure, analyze the reasons behind it, and identify key lessons to apply to future space travel.

The Shuttle Launch system consists of three components: The Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs), the External Fuel Tank (ET) and the Orbiter. Several different types of insulating foams cover a large part of the ET, which contains the cryogenic liquid hydrogen and oxygen that fuel the three Space Shuttle Main Engines, to keep the propellants cool and to prevent the formation of ice outside the tank. Approximately 82 seconds into the launch, Columbia was struck by a large piece of foam that had been detached from the External Fuel Tank, whilst it was at an altitude of 66,000 feet traveling at Mach 2.46 (Melis, Carney, Gabrys, Fasanella & Lyle, 2004). Photographic analysis conducted the day after the launch revealed that the large piece of foam was between 21…

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