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'Major Systems Failure' Indicated ^ | 2-01-03

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 Staff
February 01, 2003

( - 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.


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1 posted on 02/01/2003 5:50:13 PM PST by hope
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To: hope
Videotape showed a large piece of something coming off the orbiter immediately prior to its mid-air breakup

Gimme a break

2 posted on 02/01/2003 5:51:55 PM PST by eclectic
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To: hope
Using the term "major systems failure" is kind of a "No s**t, Sherlock!" comment. I think even those of us who are not rocket scientists figured that one out.
3 posted on 02/01/2003 5:54:43 PM PST by NoControllingLegalAuthority
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Info on STS 107 from

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 SPACEHAB’s 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 Columbia’s 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.

4 posted on 02/01/2003 5:56:39 PM PST by Light Speed
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To: hope
Reads like the breakup occured right where the math says it should have, at the point of maximum heat/stress.
5 posted on 02/01/2003 5:56:41 PM PST by NativeNewYorker (Freepin' Jew Boy)
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To: hope
well, duh.
6 posted on 02/01/2003 6:03:21 PM PST by billorites
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To: eclectic
Gimme a break

Yeah, it broke apart immediately before it broke apart.
7 posted on 02/01/2003 6:04:32 PM PST by Arkinsaw
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To: hope
"Videotape showed a large piece of something coming off the orbiter immediately prior to its mid-air breakup over Texas Saturday morning."

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.

8 posted on 02/01/2003 6:12:49 PM PST by Justa
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To: Justa
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!

You're kidding, right? There is no such frame. That "zoom" is an 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.

9 posted on 02/01/2003 6:22:13 PM PST by sam_paine
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To: Justa
Descending sideways to the slipstream the orbiter was doomed.

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"??

10 posted on 02/01/2003 6:24:10 PM PST by Izzy Dunne (Hello, I'm a TAGLINE virus. Please help me spread by copying me into YOUR tag line.)
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To: sam_paine
Obviously, you need a better monitor, video card or simply need to pay closer attention to the clip. The video was taken from an airplane by a television crew.

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.

11 posted on 02/01/2003 6:31:12 PM PST by Justa
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To: Arkinsaw
"Yeah, it broke apart immediately before it broke apart."

On this otherwise sad day, your witty remark still deserves the accolade:


Thanks, amigo...we needed that!

12 posted on 02/01/2003 6:37:30 PM PST by Airborne Longhorn
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To: hope
" 'Major Systems Failure' Indicated "

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.

13 posted on 02/01/2003 6:38:20 PM PST by _Jim
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To: Izzy Dunne
The S manuevers used for braking are up to 80-degrees to the orbiter's glide path. I believe the tail broke off during a R-hand S-manuever leaving the shuttle stuck facing south, without the ability to turn back into the glide path -as the video depicts. That would put it's left side facing down the glide path during reentry which the orbiter is not designed for. As it descended the atmosphere destroyed it, from left-to-right. The end of the video clip depicts the beginning of this very thing as the main object is seen to flare-up, i.e., burn. The tail is clearly visible tumbling away from the shuttle in the first part of the clip.

Sad but true.

14 posted on 02/01/2003 6:40:26 PM PST by Justa
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To: eclectic
Gimme a break

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 ...

15 posted on 02/01/2003 6:41:53 PM PST by _Jim
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To: _Jim; eclectic
16 posted on 02/01/2003 6:43:21 PM PST by Tennessee_Bob (We were "the thunder and the lighting of the storm...")
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To: Justa
I have not seem that clip

Do you have a link?

17 posted on 02/01/2003 6:43:50 PM PST by JZoback
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To: Justa
That would put it's left side facing down the glide path during reentry which the orbiter is not designed for.

That would explain why they lost the sensor's on the left wing, about a minute before the end.

18 posted on 02/01/2003 6:45:03 PM PST by AmericaUnited
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To: JZoback
The link is the highlighted text in post #8 of this thread. It is in .mpg format. Pay close attention. It is all there. This clip details the death of Columbia.

A solemn FReegards.

19 posted on 02/01/2003 6:46:53 PM PST by Justa
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To: Light Speed
Considering there are three American astronauts on the International Space Module, I do believe we WILL be returning to space sooner rather than later.
20 posted on 02/01/2003 6:46:57 PM PST by OldFriend (SUPPORT PRESIDENT BUSH)
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