Skip to comments.'Major Systems Failure' Indicated
Posted on 02/01/2003 5:50:13 PM PST by hope
'Major Systems Failure' Indicated">
'Major Systems Failure' Indicated
By Susan Jones and Scott Hogenson
February 01, 2003
(CNSNews.com) - A senior government official says NASA's data shows a "major systems failure," CBS News reported Saturday afternoon.
Videotape showed a large piece of something coming off the orbiter immediately prior to its mid-air breakup over Texas Saturday morning. NASA reportedly is focusing on the space shuttle Columbia's left wing as the possible source of the catastrophic failure.
NASA said there is no indication that the breakup was caused by anything or anyone on the ground.
However, press reports noted that during the launch of the space shuttle Columbia 16 days ago, a piece of insulation came loose and appeared to hit the left wing of the shuttle. It's not clear what the extent of the damage may have been, if there was any damage at all.
Temperature stress on the shuttle is highest during the re-entry period. It was on re-entry that Mission Control lost communications with Columbia.
Space shuttles are protected from the heat of re-entry by an intricate system of heat tiles, according to Robert G. Melton, a professor of aerospace engineering at Pennsylvania State University.
According to Melton's research, "shuttle orbiters use a system of 30,000 tiles made of a silica compound that does not ablate, but does rapidly radiate heat away from the orbiter. These tiles can be repaired in space."
Melton's research notes that the "major disadvantages are fragility," among the heat tiles, which are "easily damaged before launch and by orbital debris; lots of tile damage due to debris since anti-satellite tests in mid-80s.
Another shortcoming of the tiles, according to Melton's research, is their complexity and the fact that "many people (are) needed to manually attach tiles to orbiter in a tedious and time-consuming process, and to inspect them all before launch."
Melton's research indicates that during the re-entry period, maximum temperatures are recorded at an altitude of 40 miles with a speed of 15,000 miles per hour.
It is also during this time that communications are routinely disrupted because of ionization, which is caused by the high temperatures and "creates an impenetrable barrier to radio signals," according to Melton's research.
According to NASA, contact with Columbia was lost when the shuttle was flying at roughly 200,000 feet at a speed of more than 12,000 miles per hour.
Gimme a break
STS-107 Launch of Space Shuttle Columbia for Spacehab NASA, SPACEHAB, and members of the STARS Academy have been preparing for the STS-107 mission for over two years. Scheduled for launch on July 19, 2002, this research mission of sixteen days is sure to be an exciting event. With the debut of SPACEHABs Research Double Module on this flight, over 100 experiments are expected to take place onboard the U.S. Space Shuttle Columbia. The flight inclination for this mission is 39 degrees and the flight altitude is 150 nautical miles. This mission will be launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida from launch pad 39B. Seven talented astronauts will be flying this critical research mission. They include Mission Commander Rick Husband, Pilot William "Willie" McCool, Payload Commander Michael Anderson, Mission Specialist 1 Kalpana Chawla, Mission Specialist 2 David Brown, Mission Specialist 3 Laurel Clark, and Payload Specialist 1 Ilan Ramon. For the STARS Academy locker, Anderson, Chawla, and Ramon are the assigned crew. As the 111th shuttle mission and Columbias 28th flight, this shuttle just celebrated the 20th anniversary of its maiden voyage. Columbia returned to service, fresh from a year and a half of maintenance and upgrades that have made it better than ever. More than 100 modifications and improvements have been made to make Columbia ready for flight on STS-107. Highlights include a glass cockpit with nine full-color, flat-panel displays, reduced power needs, old wire removal, and a user-friendly interface.
Columbia's launch for July was scrubbed:****
June 24, 2002 Ed Campion Headquarters, Washington (Phone: 202/358-1694) James Hartsfield Johnson Space Center, Houston (Phone: 281/483-5111) Bruce Buckingham Kennedy Space Center, Fla. (Phone: 321/867-2468) Release: #H02-117 NASA MANAGERS DELAY STS-107 LAUNCH NASA managers today temporarily suspended launch preparations for Space Shuttle Columbia until they have a better understanding of several small cracks found in metal liners used to direct the flow inside main propulsion-system propellant lines on other orbiters in the fleet. Columbia's launch on STS-107, previously planned for July 19, will be delayed a few weeks to allow inspections of its flow liners as part of an intensive analysis that is under way. Recent inspections of Space Shuttle Atlantis and Space Shuttle Discovery found cracks, measuring one-tenth to three-tenths of an inch, in one flow liner on each of those vehicles. Some of the cracks were not identifiable using standard visual inspections and were only discovered using more intensive inspection techniques. "These cracks may pose a safety concern and we have teams at work investigating all aspects of the situation," said Space Shuttle Program Manager Ron Dittemore. "This is a very complex issue and it is early in the analysis. Right now there are more questions than answers. Our immediate interests are to inspect the hardware to identify cracks that exist, understand what has caused them and quantify the risk. I am confident the team will fully resolve this issue, but it may take some time. Until we have a better understanding, we will not move forward with the launch of STS-107." The impact of the investigation on other upcoming space shuttle launches has not been determined.
It's the tail!
In many of the close-up frames you can see the orbiter and tail clearly depicted. The tail has broken off and is tumbling away to the lower-R. Approx. 2/5ths through there is a very good quality frame which clearly depicts the 3 main engines of the orbiter and shows the black rudder markings of the tail as it tumbles away from the shuttle! The shuttle is facing south, with it's left side being the leading edge along it's flight path. This accuratley correlates with the thermal telemetry data.
It's my opion that the tail broke off 1/3-up during a southerly S braking manuever with the broken piece taking the full length of rudder with it. Descending sideways to the slipstream the orbiter was doomed.
You're kidding, right? There is no such frame. That "zoom" is an artifact...you can't resolve diddly squat from that clip. You could just as easily see the face of the devil as the tail or three engine bells.
I'm not sure what you mean by this.
Do you mean the shuttle was "Descending sideways to the slipstream" BECAUSE the tail came off?
Or that the tail came off BECAUSE the shuttle was "Descending sideways to the slipstream"??
The 3 main engines and black rudder markings of the broken-off tail are quite discernable in several of the frames. You just need to look.
On this otherwise sad day, your witty remark still deserves the accolade:
Thanks, amigo...we needed that!
Like maybe the heat shield system (ceramic tiles)?
Learning to Take the Heat: Insulation for the Space Shuttle
The year 1979 was the planned launch year for the first shuttle prototype vehicle, Columbia. During that year, the vehicle shed some 40% of its "critical" ceramic thermal insulation in a flight riding piggy-back on a Boeing 747 from California to Cape Kennedy.
The environment of that flight was very benign compared to the mission ascent and reentry phases that the space vehicle would have to face. During reentry through the earth's atmosphere, dramatically high temperatures develop over the surface of the shuttle, ranging from 2300° F over large areas of the underbody to 2600° F on the nose and wing leading edges.
The failure of the shuttle tiles created a crisis period for the space program that lasted a full two years while solutions to the problem were pursued. UW engineering professor James Mueller and his research collaborators, along with undergraduate and graduate students, played a key role in the final solution to the tile problem, developing superior insulation material as well as methods of its attachment to the shuttle.
Mueller, who headed the division of ceramic engineering in the Department of Material Sciences of the UW College of Engineering, had been working for several years with his faculty colleagues on ceramic heat exchangers, and had expanded the activity to a multidisciplinary research program in high- temperature ceramics (see NASA Program in Ceramic Research).
In early design studies, NASA had determined that the thermal insulation for the all-aluminum shuttle should be made of silica--a ceramic material. Silica insulation for critical high-temperature use is constructed from very pure and fine silica fibers sintered togetherbonded at high temperature, creating over a million temperature-welded joints per 1 cubic inch of material. The sintered silica is shaped into 6-inch by 6-inch by 3.5-inch blocks, covered with a black silica glass coating, and attached to the shuttle surface by a nylon felt pad, approximately one quarter inch thick, known as the strain isolation pad (SIP).
This pad isolates the brittle and weak silica block from the aluminum surface, which expands much more than the fragile tile, thereby causing the tile to crack and fail if attached directly. The tile base is glued to the felt pad (SIP) with a rubber bond, and the same "glue" is used to attach the SIP to the aluminum surface. The 1979 failure of the thermal shield was the loss of many of the "critical" tiles-- some 5,000 tiles (of a total of 28,000 on the shuttle)--so critical that loss of even one would make reentry non-survivable.
When the tile failure occurred, NASA created a "crisis" committee--in this case a committee of 12 scientists and engineers from outside NASA--to investigate the cause of the tile surface failure and to propose "fixes." Mueller and UW professor of aeronautics and astronautics John Bollard were appointed to that committee, Mueller because of his background in ceramics and involvement in the choice of the fibrous tile, and Bollard because of his background in aeroelasticity and structural mechanics.
This committee met bi-weekly for the next two years, conducting research, preparing analytical models, and proposing test protocols to NASA. In the early days of the committee, Mueller and Bollard proposed an expansion of the ceramics design group activities to include assessment of tile failure mechanisms and studies of engineering remedies. NASA not only funded the expansion but also provided equipment and supplies to facilitate the effort, which involved about a dozen faculty and some 20 students at any one time. Mueller and Bollard managed the program while maintaining "a grueling pace" of crisis committee meetings, inspections of the shuttle tiles on the Columbia, inspection of tests, installations, and histories of tile manufacturing, analysis, and installation.
The two-year, sometimes frenetic research at the UW led to two very significant successes, says Bollard. First of all, the researchers discovered the fundamental initial cause of tile attachment failure and the resulting mechanics of detachment of the tiles from the SIP. Furthermore, they developed engineering solutions for the problem that were subsequently adopted in practice: first of all, strengthening the tile material itself, and secondly, toughening the base of the tile to provide stronger load paths from the tile bottom surface through the SIP to the surface of the vehicle.
"This effort required many hours of research and testing of alternative and then optimal systems," says Bollard. "All who participated, faculty and students alike, were highly motivated and worked steadily and well beyond normal hours to help solve this pressing national problem. The pressures were at times enormous but the real-world environment provided, in retrospect, a marvelous and rewarding period for all of us, especially the students. In fact, we were very proud that it was an undergraduate student, Richard Pfaff, from Forks, Washington, who, by a very simple but very inventive experiment, guided the program to the realization and proof of the initial causes of the tile bond failures."
The success of this "crisis" program at the UW resulted in special commendation from the Washington State Legislature and the Governor of Washington, from NASA, and from the UW. The success of the "crisis" committee of 12 was recognized by NASA with citations to its members and a Group Achievement Award to Mueller and Bollard.
At the first flight of the refurbished space shuttle Columbia on April 21, 1981, Mueller and Bollard were participants in the flight readiness decision-making process, right up to the time of lift-off. After that historic event, the UW ceramics design-group activity continued for several years--during the first five shuttle missionsto carry out research on improved tile materials and attachment systems, with NASA support. In addition to Mueller and Bollard, participating UW faculty included Raymond Taggart, Ashley Emery, Albert Kobayashi, and Howard Merchant, from mechanical engineering; Billy Hartz, from civil engineering; and William D. Scott, Alan D. Miller, and O. J. ("Whit") Whittemore from the ceramics division of material sciences.
Sad but true.
Just *prior* to the big break-up, there were several larger 'somethings' that came off the shuttle and dropped back (slowed down) markedly from the shutle ... this is EASILY viewable on the video taken by WFAA CH 8 in Dallas.
One of their crews was preparing to tape a segment for another show out at Fair Park and shot some video of the SS coming over the Dallas area ...
Do you have a link?
That would explain why they lost the sensor's on the left wing, about a minute before the end.
A solemn FReegards.
This does not jive with the telemetry data NASA apparently received ... the FIRST signs of trouble were EXCESSIVE temps recorded in several systems in the left wing. Shortly after acknowledging 'trouble' with these temp readings comms and telemetry were lost.
CONJECTURE about the tail coming off, based on dubious internet video interpretations is, well, next to quackery ...
Right now, that's all we've got.
CONJECTURE about the tail coming off, based on dubious internet video interpretations is, well, next to quackery ...
I'm with you, we really don't know what happened. In sad truth, we may never know. The evidence has been scattered over two states and even if we found every last bit, it still may not answer the question, 'what happened'.
Such is life.
Just get a grip, Justa. I reviewed the link that goes to a 9sec video capture from Foxnews at http://www.gibsonridgesoftware.com/shuttle/zoom.mpg. There ain't nothing there, no matter how fancy you think your hardware is.
Why don't you post the specific frame you're talking about as a still image so we can ridicule your astute observation more easily.
I'm confident that when this video is enhanced there will be no doubt. I have a frame frozen here which I refer to. There are others like it of similar or lesser quality. It's quite clear and quite chilling. The tail is clearly visible. It is seperated from the orbiter (still intact) and perpindicular to the field of view. The black rudder markings are even visible on it. My post (#8) pretty much sums up my take. The information is there. The film simply requires study.
Is the adhesive used to 'glue' the heat tiles to the shuttle surface strong enough that the tiles would never come unglued (or have any tiles ever come off)? And if a tile were to come off during re-entry in a critical place such as underbelly or nose, would the heat penetrate and destroy the shuttle?
ANSWER, from Bob Speece on August 10, 1999:
The adhesive used to bond Space Shuttle tiles is RTV-560.
This RTV is specially processed in that surface preparations, material mix and handling are controlled to yield the optimum product.
The RTV strength is 250 psi (1723.7 N/m2) in shear and 400 psi (2757.9 N/m2) tensile at room temperature.
On STS-2, we had a hypergolic spill that resulted in multiple tiles coming loose at the launch Pad, these were repaired and the Shuttle subsequently launched.
On STS-4, we applied too much waterproofing material to upper surface tiles and tiles came off during the mission.
Our greatest concern with tiles is damage, this is due to their fragility (they are silica glass).
On mission STS-27R, we suffered much tile damage and in the area of the L-band antenna a tile was so severely damaged that the L-band antenna cover was heat-damaged and had to be replaced.
The tile system protects critical areas on the Shuttle such that if a "burn-through" occurs the results could be catastrophic.
We control the design of the Shuttle and ground systems to eliminate or reduce the effects of damaging debris. The Debris team, of which I am a member, performs routine tasks and inspections that work to protect the Shuttle from damaging debris.
This team performs an intense post-launch film review that looks for damage to the vehicle from debris. If damage is known, the Shuttle flight crew can take measures to reduce the effects of this damage, for example, a more benign attitude for reentry that will reduce atmospheric heat effects.
Our most heat critical areas are those protected by black tiles, these offer the greatest protection against high heat and are normally of increased thickness.
The Shuttle system uses both high and low heat protection tiles, flexible reusable surface insulation, and re-enforced carbon-carbon heat shields to protect flight surfaces.
It's not so clear to me.
There is an optical artifact - a "ghost" image of the shuttle itself - clearest when the zoom is at maximum.
As the zoom-in is happening, this artifact moves away from the shuttle, because of the zoom effect. This sort of artifact is common in viewing very bright objects.
Once the zoom-in is complete, he artifact is on a constant position, relative to the shuttle.
As the camera zooms back out, the artifact moves closer to the shuttle.
About the midpoint of the clip, the left side of the shuttle (right side of image) takes on a reddish glow, and then (unfortunately) the zoom-out starts. Then the trail gets longer.
But I see no tail-piece coming off.
The TIMELIME sheds some light on this: STS-107 was scheduled to be overhead in the DFW area at about 8:03 AM CDT.
By 8:00 AM CDT (straight up) NASA had already experienced comm (and telemetry) failure. The craft was already doomed when it reached the DFW area ...
STS-107 had already experienced catastrophic problems for 3 minutes by the time the video was captured by WFAA CH 8 in Dallas.
That's not what you want it to be.
When you zoom a compound lense, the depth of focus drops, which is what you see here.
Sorry guys, I know you think you've got whiz-bang equipment and you see something no other observer or network studio editing crew has seen, but we have, and we know it's not a "very good and clear" shot of the tail, engines or anything. Keep trying.
I'm confident someone else who has video capture software will soon post the frame. Between the clear frames and the tumbling of the 'artifact' throughout much of the video it's a no-brainer -it's the tail.
I'm pretty sure that's a typo. I've never heard anybody from NASA claim they have any way to replace or repair tiles in orbit. Primarily, I would suspect, because the tiles are all unique with individual partnumbers, as they must conform to the skin of the spacecraft, so you couldn't just stock some of them and stick em on with superglue. You'd have to stock all of them, and that would effectively double the weight of the heat shield! Nor is there any NASA equivalent of the 200 MPH NASCAR Duct Tape which can withstand escape velocities of 12,500MPH!
But to your point, I wonder if NASA actually -DID- know how bad it was...if they did, would you advertise this a la Apollo 13? Would you want the crew to stew on it for 16 days? Would NASA management ethically allow a possible shower of debris that could kill hundreds, rather than require re-entry over unpopulated ocean (and hence sacrifice teh crew anyway.) I doubt they knew, but I also doubt they wanted to know.
It's frightening what things folks are "enabled" to see by the internet, even when just a little simple analysis would go a long way.
THERMAL PROTECTION SYSTEMMore, including descriptions of each material type at:
The thermal protection system consists of various materials applied externally to the outer structural skin of the orbiter to maintain the skin within acceptable temperatures, primarily during the entry phase of the mission. The orbiter's outer structural skin is constructed primarily of aluminum and graphite epoxy.
During entry, the TPS materials protect the orbiter outer skin from temperatures above 350 F. In addition, they are reusable for 100 missions with refurbishment and maintenance. These materials perform in temperature ranges from minus 250 F in the cold soak of space to entry temperatures that reach nearly 3,000 F. The TPS also sustains the forces induced by deflections of the orbiter airframe as it responds to the various external environments. Because the thermal protection system is installed on the outside of the orbiter skin, it establishes the aerodynamics over the vehicle in addition to acting as the heat sink.
Orbiter interior temperatures also are controlled by internal insulation, heaters and purging techniques in the various phases of the mission.
The TPS is a passive system consisting of materials selected for stability at high temperatures and weight efficiency. These materials are as follows:
1. Reinforced carbon-carbon is used on the wing leading edges; the nose cap, including an area immediately aft of the nose cap on the lower surface (chine panel); and the immediate area around the forward orbiter/external tank structural attachment. RCC protects areas where temperatures exceed 2,300 F during entry.
2. Black high-temperature reusable surface insulation tiles are used in areas on the upper forward fuselage, including around the forward fuselage windows; the entire underside of the vehicle where RCC is not used; portions of the orbital maneuvering system and reaction control system pods; the leading and trailing edges of the vertical stabilizer; wing glove areas; elevon trailing edges; adjacent to the RCC on the upper wing surface; the base heat shield; the interface with wing leading edge RCC; and the upper body flap surface.
The HRSI tiles protect areas where temperatures are below 2,300 F. These tiles have a black surface coating necessary for entry emittance [radiative cooling].
3. Black tiles called fibrous refractory composite insulation were developed later in the thermal protection system program. FRCI tiles replace some of the HRSI tiles in selected areas of the orbiter.
4. Low-temperature reusable surface insulation white tiles are used in selected areas of the forward, mid-, and aft fuselages; vertical tail; upper wing; and OMS/RCS pods.
These tiles protect areas where temperatures are below 1,200 F. These tiles have a white surface coating to provide better thermal characteristics on orbit.
5. After the initial delivery of Columbia from Rockwell International's Palmdale assembly facility, an advanced flexible reusable surface insulation was developed. This material consists of sewn composite quilted fabric insulation batting between two layers of white fabric that are sewn together to form a quilted blanket.
AFRSI was used on Discovery and Atlantis to replace the vast majority of the LRSI tiles. Following its seventh flight, Columbia also was modified to replace most of the LRSI tiles with AFRSI. The AFRSI blankets provide improved producibility and durability, reduced fabrication and installation time and costs, and a weight reduction over that of the LRSI tiles.
The AFRSI blankets protect areas where temperatures are below 1,200 F.
6. White blankets made of coated Nomex felt reusable surface insulation are used on the upper payload bay doors, portions of the midfuselage and aft fuselage sides, portions of the upper wing surface and a portion of the OMS/RCS pods. The FRSI blankets protect areas where temperatures are below 700 F.
7. Additional materials are used in other special areas. These materials are thermal panes for the windows; metal for the forward reaction control system fairings and elevon seal panels on the upper wing to elevon interface; a combination of white- and black-pigmented silica cloth for thermal barriers and gap fillers around operable penetrations, such as main and nose landing gear doors, egress and ingress flight crew side hatch, umbilical doors, elevon cove, forward RCS, RCS thrusters, midfuselage vent doors, payload bay doors, rudder/speed brake, OMS/RCS pods and gaps between TPS tiles in high differential pressure areas; and room-temperature vulcanizing material for the thick aluminum T-0 umbilicals on the sides of the orbiter aft fuselage.
No it wasn't.
Where do you get that?
John Pronk (WFAA personnel), who took that, was at Fair Park - which is five to ten minutes from the WFAA studio in downtown Dallas ...
I also suspect that communication and data were cut off to the ground at least several seconds before those video clips were recorded.
Well, if accurate then the tail breaking off would be secondary to whatever initiated it. I'll take your word for it then. This may be the case, as in the same frame I'm referring to there is a large, star-shaped dark spot on the underside of the orbiter, approx 1/2 the way back and a little left-of-center.
Trust me, this video is not of an 'artifact'. It is the shuttle and its tail falling away from it. The frame I'm referencing is approximately 2/5s thru the sequence and is quite clear. The 3 main engines are visible, it's tail is missing and there's the large dark spot on it's underside. I wrote that one off as an artifact. Perhaps some damaged heat shields and a blown tire are the cause after all with the fuel tank insulation starting the whole thing. In any event you really do have to see the frame. It's quite something. Surely someone will grab it and enhance it and you'll see what I'm talking about.
You can see one easily identifiable piece of debris near the beginning that falls "above" the contrail. It is a large piece of silvery reflective sheet metal that is spinning...the rotation is evident. It seems this is a piece of the outer skin of the craft, possibly a plate from the left wing.
People have always been worried about those tiles -- they are clearly the "weakest link" in the whole system (and this is not just my opinion -- you can find plenty of articles by people more knowledgeable than me saying the same thing). There have been several close calls in the past, perhaps it was just inevitable that eventually, the right number of tiles would come off in the right places at the right time to combine and cause a catastrophe, and that just might be what happened today.