Causes Of Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster Essay

Causes Of Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster Essay

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The Causes of Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster
The Columbia Disaster was one of the most tragic events in space shuttle history. In 2003, space shuttle Columbia broke up as it returned to Earth, killing the seven astronauts. This essay will explain the major causes of the Columbia disaster which include technical issue and management issues, and illustrate how pressure impacts engineers work at NASA.
Technical issue of the Columbia disaster
The Space Shuttle Columbia disaster occurred when the orbiter disintegrated following the foam shedding, caused by the technical issue which included an inadequate understanding of foam properties as well as faulty design of the orbiter
inadequate understanding of foam properties
the properties of foam had not been fully understood since its variable components. Also, the foam did not have the same properties in all directions (Columbia Accident Investigation Board 2003, p.52). In other words, due to changeable properties, it was of difficulties to predict the foam reaction during the launch of the orbiter. In addition, the production of foam had a ratio of two chemical mixtures and these foams was only sprayed by hand in order to make a foam ramp. Foam variability still easily occurred during manual operation (Columbia Accident Investigation Board 2003, p.53). If the people who were not familiar or lack of knowledge of foam to applied foam on the fittings, it was likely to increase the chance of foam variability. Manual operation may make the shade of foam complex and lack of control.

Faulty design
There are some defects in the design of the orbiter. According to the research, the external tank was designed over 30 years and engineers worked separately to design different components of t...


... middle of paper ...


...essure. The schedule pressure led to ignoring the importance of the foam strike on the previous flight and the acceptance of various problems caused by foam shedding.
It is hard to balance budget, schedule and risk at the same time. The pressure of budget and schedule increase the chance of neglecting the potential risks which was abnormal performance of different components, becoming a factor in causing the disaster.

Conclusion
Technical issue, management issue, and pressure are the main causes of Columbia disaster. Inadequate understanding of foam and faulty design cause the foam shedding. Also, the inadequate risk assessment and flaw in organization culture in NASA lead to the acceptance of foam shedding and impact the engineers’ final decision. Furthermore, engineers were under budget and schedule pressure to launch the orbiter, ignoring the potential risks.


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