Space Shuttle investigation board makes recommendations.
Advanced Composites Bulletin, pp. 7-9, June 2003
team examining the Columbia Space Shuttle accident has recommended that the
US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) develop and
implement a comprehensive inspection plan to determine the structural
integrity of all reinforced carbon-carbon (RCC) components used on future
Space Shuttle Orbiter flights. The Columbia spacecraft was destroyed as it
attempted to re-enter the earth's atmosphere on 1 February 2003, killing
all seven astronauts on-board. The recommendation was issued by the
Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) following the board's finding
that current inspection techniques are not adequate to assess structural
integrity of RCC panels, supporting structures and attaching hardware. The
RCC system is an essential component of the Space Shuttle Orbiter's Thermal
Protection System (TPS). Contact: Lieutenant Colonel Woody Woodyard,
Columbia Accident Investigation Board, 16850 Saturn Lane, Houston, Texas
77058, USA; tel +1 281/283-7520, website: www.caib.us.
Aviation Week & Space Technology, vol. 158, no. 18, pp. 30-32, 5 May
With the space station crew to support, NASA's shuttle engineers are
trying to jump-start the return-to-flight work they know is coming. NASA
managers and space shuttle engineers are beginning to work on some of the
tasks they expect the Columbia Accident Investigation Board will recommend,
hoping to get a leg up on the board's report for as quick a return to
flight as possible.
NASA's eroding safety.
Aviation Week & Space Technology, vol. 158, no. 19, pp. 32-33, 12 May
Deficiencies in how NASA has carried out government responsibilities
for shuttle safety will be key focus of accident report. The Columbia
Accident Investigation Board will cite serious deficiencies in NASAs
overall safety program as a root cause or significant contributing factor
to the loss of the space shuttle Columbia and her crew. Investigators
believe these deficiencies involve a lack of effectiveness about how NASA
has carried out the government's responsibility for broader oversight, when
it transferred more specific vehicle quality control duties to the United
Space Alliance (USA) under the Space Flight Operations Contract (SFOC).
Connecting the dots.
Aviation Week & Space Technology, vol. 158, no. 15, pp. 30-31, 14 Apr.
Accident Board will issue first interim recommendations as NASA
pushes to resumeISS support flights as quickly as safely possible.
Searchers in central Texas have moved just west of the main Columbia debris
field in the hope critical pieces of the space shuttle's left wing may have
fallen there. If so, it could round out the growing body of evidence that
the wing disintegrated during reentry because a loose piece of insulating
foam cracked a critical heat-shield component during launch. While the
Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) plans another six weeks of
data-gathering and analysis before it starts writing its report, NASA is
already trying to fix that most likely cause of the accident so it can
resume flights to the International Space Station (ISS) as soon as
Columbia inquiry. Launch impact damage may have been under
Spaceflight, vol. 45, no. 4, pp. 144-145, Apr. 2003
A month after the
loss of Columbia and her crew, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board,
NASA officials, researchers and engineers are still trying to piece
together the exact cause of the disaster which caused the oldest Shuttle in
the fleet to disintegrate almost 40 miles above the Earth. All Space
Shuttle flights remain suspended for the foreseeable future leaving space
officials in the US, Europe and Russia with the task of developing
scenarios that will keep the International Space Station up and running.
Space: where are we headed?
Aerospace America, vol. 41, no. 4, pp. 16-18, Apr. 2003
column was going to be a look at the beginning of a busy year in space
activities, starting with the January launch of the space shuttle Columbia
on STS-107, and anticipating the continued expansion of the International
Space Station (ISS). Now what we have is questions, memories ... and the
continued belief in our journey through the universe.
Columbia - Aftermath of a tragedy.
Aerospace America, vol. 41, no. 3, pp. 26-29, Mar. 2003
difficulties now facing the space program, the legacy of the space shuttle
Columbia must be the continued exploration of our universe.
Aviation Week & Space Technology, vol. 158, no. 9, pp. 30,32, 3 Mar.
Deadly impact from orbital debris is a constant threat. Assessing
the unhappy odds is thrust of 1997 National Research Council report. The
calculated risk of meteoroid and orbital debris impact to the space shuttle
is higher than generally thought, and it is not surprising that NASA
officials were pointing to it as a potential cause of the Columbia accident
despite dramatic footage showing the orbiter wing being pummeled by
external tank debris during the ascent.
Shuttle accident puts 'everything on table'.
Aviation Week & Space Technology, vol. 158, no. 6, pp. 29, 10 Feb.
Questioning what went wrong with the space shuttle Columbia, and
why, quickly exploded last week from narrow technical issues to the broadly
political. As the White House hunkered down, Capitol Hill prepared to probe
basic assumptions underlying space policy decisions that ranged from
shuttle safety funding to building the International Space Station to the
need for reusable space launch vehicles. 'Everything is on the table,' said
one Capitol Hill insider as plans advanced in the House and Senate for the
first hearing in what was shaping up to be a protracted and wide-ranging
set of investigations into the U.S. space program and its underlying
Improved tiles and foam still pose maintenance headaches.
Aviation Week & Space Technology, vol. 158, no. 6, pp. 41-42, 10 Feb.
Space shuttle thermal protection and external tank foam insulation
have both undergone significant changes during the 22 years of shuttle
operation, yet both continue to create maintenance headaches and safety
concerns. The falloff of tank insulation on STS-107 was part of a recent
flareup of such incidents that started two flights earlier. It had already
become a major part of future flight readiness reviews before Columbia
broke apart on Feb. 1. Post-flight tile care has improved from the early
days of the shuttle, but still consumes a major portion of orbiter
maintenance. Shuttle program officials believe the foam strike seen by
ground cameras was insufficient to cause catastrophic tile damage, and
think there might be another cause. 'It doesn't make sense to us that a
piece of debris would be the root causes for the loss of Columbia and its
crew,' said Ronald Dittemore, shuttle program manager. 'There's got to be
Columbia debris recovery has cost U.S. over $200 million.
Space News, vol. 14, no. 14, pp. 14, 7 Apr. 2003
Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart over the western United States Feb. 1,
the U.S. government has spent more than $200 million on debris recovery
efforts. NASA estimates it spent $30 million to $60 million in the first
two months of debris recovery operations in Texas and Louisiana. The
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. government's primary
disaster relief agency, spent more than $180 million by April 1, and that
figure is expected to grow as debris recovery continues.
Putting it in context.
Aviation Week & Space Technology, vol. 158, no. 14, pp. 30-31,
7 Apr. 2003
Amid growing evidence of recurring foam problems, Columbia
accident board starts probing the shuttle program's sociology. As
circumstantial evidence builds suggesting a loose piece of insulating foam
brought down the space shuttle Columbia, the board investigating the
disaster is starting to focus on how a shuttle program devoted to safety
could have missed the danger. While its members are rigorously avoiding
jumping to a final conclusion, new data examined by the Columbia Accident
Investigation Board (CAIB) point to a breach in the leading edge of the
left wing near the spot hit by a slab of foam during liftoff as the
accident's cause. Early playback from a data tape recorder that survived
the fall to Earth shows temperature sensors in the left wing overheating
much sooner after Columbia reentered the atmosphere than was detected in
telemetry, in a pattern consistent with superhot gases eating into the wing
from the vicinity of the foam impact. Meanwhile, examination of foam on a
new tank at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans found more voids
where water could collect, boosting chances the foam would pop off again
during launch as it also had before Columbia was launched.
Search continues for thermal protection options for shuttle.
Space News, vol. 14, no. 10, pp. 20, 10 Mar. 2003
the Columbia accident, researchers were working on better alternatives to
the ceramic tiles that cover the surfaces on a space shuttle's air frame
and are so susceptible to damage from the intense heat that occurs during
re-entry. But for now the only technology available to protect the vehicle
and its crew is the small black tiles now in use. The heat-resistant tiles
that cover the belly of a shuttle are only part of the thermal protection
system that insulates each orbiter and crew from temperatures as high as
1,649 degrees Celsius as the orbiter returns to Earth at speeds in excess
of 27,200 kilometers an hour. The system also includes insulating blankets,
white ceramic tiles that withstand lower temperatures, and a reinforced
carbon-carbon composite material along the craft's nose and wing edges.
Aviation Week & Space Technology, vol. 158, no. 13, pp. 39, 31
Crew escape system dispute foreshadows broader space policy
debate to come. Independent safety experts on NASA's Aerospace Safety
Advisory Panel (ASAP) have questioned the agency's policy of counting on
the space shuttle itself for crew survival, instead of developing an escape
system that could pull crewmembers out of a doomed vehicle using technology
that already exists. Panel recommendations on the issue triggered a
sometimes testy discussion last week between Administrator Sean O'Keefe and
ASAP members that foreshadowed a broader debate likely to come. In the wake
of the Columbia accident, some NASA advisers and congressional overseers
believe the time is ripe for a major reexamination of the assumptions
behind the human space-flight program. But O'Keefe wants to stick to the
Integrated Space Transportation Plan (ISTP) that was drafted before the
accident, incorporating the lessons of Columbia but sticking to the plan's
broad outline over the next 20 years or so.
Making foam stick is tricky.
Dornheim, M A
Aviation Week & Space Technology, vol. 158, no. 13, pp.
59-60, 31 Mar. 2003
External tank insulation has been falling off since
first flight, but was not considered a lethal threat. A history of the
space shuttle external tank written by a key official just five months ago
gives good insight into the lengthy design evolution that continues to this
day. A leading course of inquiry by the Columbia Accident Investigation
Board is that tank insulation foam struck the orbiter's thermal protection
system. Operators of dangerous equipment like to have a stable
configuration, but the tanks have varied throughout the shuttle program,
and some of that change affects how insulation might break off. Falling
insulation has been an issue throughout the shuttle program and remained so
at the time of the Mission STS-107 accident.
Hechy, J; Mullins, J; Chandler, D L; Sample, I; Kleiner, K
vol. 177, no. 2381, pp. 4-9, 8 Feb. 2003
Four articles cover different
aspects of the disaster befalling the Columbia space shuttle. The lead
article provides what information is currently known about the possible
cause of the accident followed by a discussion of past problems experienced
with the heat tiles on the space shuttle in the context of repeated
warnings about a possible culture at NASA that ignores problems that it
does not fully understand. The threat to the International Space Station
(ISS) posed by the grounding of the shuttle are discussed from the
viewpoint of the imbalance of countries involved in the venture and the
greater influence that the disaster may have given to countries such as
Russia, which is the other main contributor to the programme. Concludes
with the implication of the cessation of US space shuttle flights for the
crew members still remaining on the ISS.
Shuttle Service Life Extension Program - Achieving the paramount goal of
increased flight safety and life extension
Fleming, Bruce W
39th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference and
Exhibit, Huntsville, AL, July 20-23, 2003
As we crossed over into the new
millennium, the Space Shuttle Program (SSP) has approached its mid-life.
Having served the Human Space Flight Program since 1980, increased ISS
demands have been placed on the SSP to remain operational until 2020 and
beyond. In order to reduce the risks involved in extending the Shuttle
life, this paper highlights Lockheed Martin's dedication and approach taken
to identify and characterize key upgrades, with focus on supporting NASA's
efforts with extending the Space Shuttle longevity and increasing system
safety. This focus is highlighted by our involvement in previous, current
and potential future Shuttle Service Life Extension Program (SLEP)
activities, including: Cockpit Avionics Upgrade; Crew Escape/Survivability;
Advanced TPS Tile, Coatings and MMOD Protection; On-orbit Inspection and
Repair Techniques; Aging Vehicle Actions; Auxiliary Instrumentation System
(AIS)/Vehicle Health Monitoring System (VHMS); Orbiter Electric Auxiliary
Power Unit (EAPU)/Advanced Hydraulic Power System (AHPS); Electro
Mechanical Actuators (EMA); Non-Toxic Orbital Maneuvering System/Reaction
Control System (OMS /RCS); integrated Communication/Radar System with
Embedded Phased Array Antennas; Enhanced Pyrotechnic Controller (EPIC); SRB
Electric Auxiliary Power Unit (EAPU) and Thermal Batteries; and Liquid Fly
Back Booster (LFBB)/Reusable First Stage (RFS). (Author)
Lost in space? Creating an environment on Earth for building safe and
effective space structures.
Strong, A B
Composites Fabrication, vol. 19, no. 6, pp. 14-19, June
The board investigating the Columbia Space Shuttle accident on April
17 announced their preliminary findings and recommendations. Just as most
people suspected, the breakup of the Columbia was related to the loss of,
or damage to, a few carbon-carbon areas that are an integral part of the
thermal protection system (TPS). Even though other missions have flown and
landed successfully with some damage to the TPS, those were damages to some
other part of the TPS system rather than the carbon-carbon areas. Clearly,
something tragically different occurred with the Columbia's last flight. I
believe that a careful consideration of this disaster leads to important
lessons for NASA and even to the manufacturing of typical FRP.
Topological interlocking of protective tiles for the space
Estrin, Y; Dyskin, A V; Pasternak, E; Khor, H C; Kanel-Belov, A
Philosophical Magazine Letters, vol. 83, no. 6, pp. 351-355, June
We propose a new concept of design of heat- and impact-resistant
tile covering for space shuttles based upon topological interlocking of
tiles. The key features of this type of tiling are as follows: firstly, the
tiles are kept in place by virtue of the geometry of their contacting
surfaces alone, so that no binding agent needs to be used; secondly,
failure of an individual element does not compromise the structural
integrity of the tile assembly and, moreover, a failed tile will be kept in
place by its neighbours, thus maintaining its thermal protection function;
thirdly, topological interlocking removes the need for connectors or other
stress concentrators deleterious in extreme conditions of space flight and
re-entry. Topological interlocking is scale and material independent, which
permits combining tiles made from different materials in any proportion.
Piecing it together.
Flight International, vol. 163, no. 4880, pp. 26-29, 29 Apr.-5 May
As the painstaking task of reassembling the Space Shuttle Columbia
slowly progresses, key questions are emerging about how NASA inspected its
ageing shuttles, how it handled debris impacts on the orbiter and why it
did not request on-orbit imagery.
'There was zero we could have done...'
Chandler, D L
New Scientist, vol. 177, no. 2387, pp. 36-9, 22 Mar.
The claim by NASA that there was no purpose to be served by
photographing the underside of the space shuttle Columbia because there was
nothing that could be done if there was damage and there was no way of
saving the shuttle crew, because of the lack of time and the restricted air
supply/carbon dioxide removal, is challenged. A step by step approach is
taken to determine what might have been done to rescue the astronauts with
a view to planning what to do if this type of disaster is repeated.
Aviation Week & Space Technology, vol. 158, no. 26, pp. 37,40, 30 June
Timing of space shuttle return to flight will depend on wording of
accident report. NASA's space shuttle chief, and the head of the Columbia
Accident Investigation Board (CAIB), agree that shuttles probably can start
flying again early next year, since the panel's final report will not
recommend a major management and 'cultural' overhaul in the agency - at
least not before return to flight. But the exact timing of the return to
flight - and its implications for the stalled International Space Station
project - will depend on how strongly the CAIB words its relatively narrow
recommendations for hardware modifications that must be made before the
next flight. Of particular importance will be the issue of on-orbit
inspection of shuttles to see if they can safely reenter the atmosphere,
and of their repair if damage is found.
Aviation Week & Space Technology, vol. 158, no. 25, pp. 45-46, 23 June
Columbia accident board plans more interim recommendations before
its final report. Members of the panel probing why the space shuttle
Columbia broke up on reentry plan to issue a few more interim
recommendations to give NASA a head start on flying shuttles again, and
then will try to grind out a final report before the end of July. Among
recommendations the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) will make
'as soon as possible' is one calling for future mission management teams
(MMTs), with overall responsibility for the conduct of shuttle flights, to
be included in more preflight integrated simulations. Typically shuttle
crews and their ground controllers work together in the exercises - most of
them at Johnson Space Center - handling simulated emergencies designed to
meld flight and ground personnel into a cohesive team.
Aviation Week & Space Technology, vol. 159, no. 1, pp. 32-34, 7 July
As congressional hearings loom, P 32-34 O'Keefe calls Washington a
'logic-free zone'. NASA will use wind tunnel and computational facilities
at the Langley and Ames research centers to totally recharacterize the
aerodynamics of the space shuttle before the program returns to flight,
reclassified as more of a developmental vehicle, than the operational space
transport NASA has been trying to make it for two decades. 'Clearly there
is more to understand about this vehicle and we have committed ourselves to
doing that before we go back to flying again,' said William Readdy, NASA
associate administrator for space flight. Both NASA and the Columbia
accident board agree that from now on the shuttle project will be viewed -
from a decision-making standpoint - much more like an experimental
X-aircraft program than a fully operational system.
Aviation Week & Space Technology, vol. 159, no. 2, pp. 31-32, 14 July
NASA will continue impact tests on shuttle leading edges to validate
analytical models. NASA plans several more months of impact tests on
reinforced-carbon-carbon space shuttle leading edges, using the same Texas
test rig that the Columbia Accident Investigation Board used to blow a
16-in. hole in an RCC leading-edge panel last week. The CAIB test
demonstrated once and for all that insulating foam dropped from Columbia's
external tank during launch could render an RCC panel useless for thermal
protection during reentry, triggering the fatal Feb. 1 accident. The
upcoming NASA tests are intended to put some real numbers behind previous
RCC impact analysis that amounted to little more than guesswork.
Aviation Week & Space Technology, vol. 159, no. 3, pp. 31-32, 21 July
NASA following Navy lead in stiffening safety standards for future
space shuttle operations. U.S. Navy submariners-in-training have long
studied the 1986 Challenger launch disaster for the safety lessons it
holds, but NASA is only beginning to consider such training for shuttle
operators as it plans safety activities after the loss of Challenger's
sister ship Columbia. Safety 'benchmarks' collected by a joint NASA/Navy
team that started its work last summer are finding their way into the
management portion of NASA's return-to-flight plans, even before the agency
hears from the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB). An independent
engineering and safety center at NASA's Langley Research Center formally
established last week will be based on longtime practices in the nuclear
Navy, and other NASA reforms seem likely to flow from the ongoing
'NASA/Navy Benchmarking Exchange'.
Aerospace America, vol. 41, no. 9, pp. 32-34, Sept. 2003
spaceflight safety parlance, an escape occurs when the rigorous procedures
to ensure flight safety break down, allowing a human error or mechanical
failure to threaten the spacecraft and crew. Details of the safety escapes
(and there are more than one) that led to the loss of shuttle Columbia
became painfully evident this summer. The smoking gun in the accident
investigation was dramatically unveiled on July 7, when an air cannon fired
a chunk of external tank insulating foam into a mock-up of the space
shuttle's wing leading edge. The impact of the foam, weighing just 1.67 lb
but traveling at 530 mph, blew a 16-in. hole in a reinforced carbon-carbon
(RCC) leading-edge panel, about the size of the gap investigators believe
led to fatal heating of Colubmia's left wing.
Columbia probe shifts
Aviation Week and Space Technology; 158 (16) 21 Apr 2003,
In a major development, after new analysis of shuttle debris, the
Columbia Accident board is now focusing on the separation or fracture of a
wing T-seal as a scenario that could have opened a 1-in wide slit in the
orbiter's leading edge where reinforced carbon-carbon (RCC) panels are
joined end-to-end. (Quotes from original text)
The Shuttle tile story
Cooper, Paul A; Holloway, Paul F
Astronautics & Aeronautics, vol. 19, no.
1, Jan. 1981, p. 24-34, 36; Structures technology - Historical perspective
and evolution (A98-24801 05-39), Reston, VA, American Institute of
Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc., 1998, p. 259-274
problems associated with the orbiter's ceramic reusable thermal protection
system (TPS), which contributed to the delay of the first launch, and their
resolution are discussed. The Shuttle design goal of 100-mission
reusability with minimum turnaround time between flights ruled out the
ablative heat shields (except for some use between elevons). The need for
reusability dictated a lightweight nonablative TPS capable of protecting
the aluminum substructure from high surface temperatures and, at the same
time, withstanding the thermal cycle and environmental loads of
spaceflight. The design of the TPS system, its static and dynamic
performance, strength deficiencies, and modifications of the TPS, such as
tile densification, to correct the strength deficiencies, are described.