Author Topic: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia  (Read 29071 times)

Offline Paul Adams

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New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« on: 12/30/2008 03:50 PM »
CNN has just reported that NASA will release a major new report on the Columbia accident within the hour. Apparently it is so "graphic" that the families of the crew were advised in advance.

Sorry if this has been posted elsewhere; could not find it mentioned.

Paul
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Online DaveS

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #1 on: 12/30/2008 04:00 PM »
I wonder what led to them to feel the need for another report on the loss of Columbia?

The CAIB did a fantastic job on their final report, detailing not only the technical aspects of the cause, but also the cultural aspects.
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Offline collectSPACE

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #2 on: 12/30/2008 04:14 PM »
This 400-page report is far more detailed than the CAIB report was on the specific subject of crew survivability. Under study for five years, the recommendations it makes have direct applications to Constellation.

Columbia Crew Survival Investigation Report (16.2 MB PDF)
http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/298870main_SP-2008-565.pdf

NASA Fact Sheet: Space Shuttle and Constellation Program Actions Resulting From SCSIIT Recommendations
http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/298786main_Fact-sheet_SSP_and_Constellation_action_result_fromSCSIIT.pdf

Quote
NASA commissioned the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) to conduct a thorough review of both the technical and the organizational causes of the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia and her crew on February 1, 2003. The accident investigation that followed determined that a large piece of insulating foam from Columbia’s external tank (ET) had come off during ascent and struck the leading edge of the left wing, causing critical damage. The damage was undetected during the mission. The CAIB’s findings and recommendations were published in 2003 and are available on the web at http://caib.nasa.gov/. NASA responded to the CAIB findings and recommendations with the Space Shuttle Return to Flight Implementation Plan. Significant enhancements were made to NASA’s organizational structure, technical rigor, and understanding of the flight environment. The ET was redesigned to reduce foam shedding and eliminate critical debris. In 2005, NASA succeeded in returning the space shuttle to flight. In 2010, the space shuttle will complete its mission of assembling the International Space Station and will be retired to make way for the next generation of human space flight vehicles: the Constellation Program.
 
The Space Shuttle Program recognized the importance of capturing the lessons learned from the loss of Columbia and her crew to benefit future human exploration, particularly future vehicle design. The program commissioned the Spacecraft Crew Survival Integrated Investigation Team (SCSIIT). The SCSIIT was asked to perform a comprehensive analysis of the accident, focusing on factors and events affecting crew survival, and to develop recommendations for improving crew survival for all future human space flight vehicles. To do this, the SCSIIT investigated all elements of crew survival, including the design features, equipment, training, and procedures intended to protect the crew. This report documents the SCSIIT findings, conclusions, and recommendations.
« Last Edit: 12/30/2008 04:23 PM by collectSPACE »

Offline juleshow

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Offline Skylon

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #4 on: 12/30/2008 04:25 PM »
Only a few pages into and...geez. Not even enough time to get the visors down and locked? This sounds like as much a blessing as a curse.

The seat restraint issue sounds like a really big deal, even in a situation that is survivable.

Offline psloss

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #5 on: 12/30/2008 05:16 PM »
Only a few pages into and...geez. Not even enough time to get the visors down and locked? This sounds like as much a blessing as a curse.

The seat restraint issue sounds like a really big deal, even in a situation that is survivable.
Would suggest reading the whole thing (which I'm still doing, too)...not sure that's the whole story...remember that vehicle breakup didn't occur simultaneously with loss of control.

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #6 on: 12/30/2008 05:49 PM »
A media teleconference will be held at 3 p.m. CST Tuesday to discuss the report. To participate, reporters must contact NASA's Johnson Space Center newsroom at 281-483-5111 no later than 2 p.m. Space may be limited. Audio of the teleconference will be streamed live at:


http://www.nasa.gov/newsaudio


The teleconference participants are Wayne Hale, deputy associate administrator for strategic partnerships; astronaut Pam Melroy, deputy project manager for the investigation team; Nigel Packham, project manager for the investigation team; and Jeff Hanley, Constellation program manager.


The Spacecraft Crew Survival Integrated Investigation Team report is available at:


http://www.nasa.gov/reports


The members of this team have done an outstanding job under difficult and personal circumstances," said Johnson Space Center Director Michael L. Coats. "Their work will ensure that the legacy of Columbia and her heroic crew continues to be the improved safety of future human spaceflights worldwide."


The team's final report includes 30 recommendations to improve spacecraft design and crew safety. The recommendations cover a broad range of subjects from crew training, procedures, restraints and individual safety equipment to spacecraft design methods and recommendations regarding future accident investigations.


NASA already has implemented some of the report's recommendations and is evaluating others. A fact sheet describing actions that have been taken or are in work by both the Space Shuttle Program and Constellation Program as a result of the investigation is available at the same web link as the report.


This was the first-ever in-depth crew survival study of a spaceflight accident. The investigation was conducted by a multi-disciplinary NASA team based at NASA's Johnson Space Center. The study team also consulted experts outside of NASA for portions of its work.

Offline khallow

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #7 on: 12/30/2008 06:15 PM »
Skimming the report, I see two main parts, a characterization of the internal Shuttle environment from the start of reentry to final breakup and subsequent dynamics. And an evaluation of the safety/protective equipment on board and how it performed under these extreme conditions. It's not a more detailed CAIB report.

Skylon, I don't think it was time that is the problem. Even under instant depressurization, a human should remain concious for about ten seconds (so I dimly recall) which should be enough time. I imagine it was some combination of being unable to lower the visor and perhaps information overload. If it takes you more than ten seconds to realize that the cabin has decompressed, then you're in trouble.

Seat restraints only is important in situations that are survivable. And it's important to remember that a survivable situation would have a gentler environment for the crew. So lowering visors might not be an issue. Nor perhaps the seat restraints (which I haven't read up about). And if you want a crew to survive in case of total breakup of the reentering craft? Here's a pile of data on what a crewmember has to survive.
Karl Hallowell

Offline clegg78

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #8 on: 12/30/2008 06:35 PM »
Just browsing through the first section -and some other parts, I come to the conclusion that there are some amazingly dedicated, smart, and amazing individuals who work for the space program.    This document is flat out amazing the detail, the science, and the fact finding analytical work that went into this.

I now have some new reading at night ;)

Kudo's to all the engineers and researchers who were involved in this.  For such a terrible event, it is good such valuable information has been learned from it!
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Offline edkyle99

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #9 on: 12/30/2008 06:47 PM »
A media teleconference will be held at 3 p.m. CST Tuesday to discuss the report. To participate, reporters must contact NASA's Johnson Space Center newsroom at 281-483-5111 no later than 2 p.m.

Someone has to ask, "Why now?"  I have to think that this report has been around for quite awhile.  It has been nearly six years since the disaster.  (Not that the presenters will give a straight answer.)

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 12/30/2008 06:49 PM by edkyle99 »

Offline psloss

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #10 on: 12/30/2008 06:50 PM »
Someone has to ask, "Why now?"  I have to think that this report has been around for quite awhile.  It has been nearly six years since the disaster.
Well, that can be asked about the timing in several ways, but NASAWatch/Spaceref reported on one of them:
http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewnews.html?id=1314

Excerpt:
Quote
According to individuals closely familiar with the development of the report, this date was indeed specifically chosen - but not for reasons of trying to slip something under the media's radar. Rather, it was done at the request of the families of Columbia's crew - specifically such that their children would not have to publicly face pressures at school as the report was being released.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #11 on: 12/30/2008 07:47 PM »
Seat restraints only is important in situations that are survivable. And it's important to remember that a survivable situation would have a gentler environment for the crew. So lowering visors might not be an issue. Nor perhaps the seat restraints (which I haven't read up about). And if you want a crew to survive in case of total breakup of the reentering craft?

That's missing a bigger point: this is less about the specifics of the accident and more about training and procedures.  Seat restraints and visors may be important for the _next_ accident, so you want a system that encourages following proper procedures.

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #12 on: 12/30/2008 07:57 PM »
Conference beginning shortly at http://www.nasa.gov/newsaudio

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #13 on: 12/30/2008 08:08 PM »
First question from Gina - "why the delay?" Wayne said it took longer than he expected, but this involved a lot of people doing a lot of investigating. Pam said that as things popped up that could be transferred to shuttle or Constellation, they were immediately sent along.

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #14 on: 12/30/2008 08:10 PM »
Wayne said this started in Fall of 2004. As far as he is concerned this is the last word on NASA looking at Columbia.

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #15 on: 12/30/2008 08:12 PM »
Seth asked why they bothered investigating since they wouldn't have survived no matter what. Wayne pointed out that crew can't be completely encapsulated in suits on shuttle, but that will not be an issue on Constellation.

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #16 on: 12/30/2008 08:15 PM »
Tracy wants to know why they said crew wasn't aware of what was going on. Wayne says it was a very short time, very disoriented motion, numerous alarms simultaneously. Crews are trained to get control in a number of different ways, evidence from switch positions that they tried, but it's such a brief time in a crisis situation.

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #17 on: 12/30/2008 08:18 PM »
Todd wants to know when families were informed about this report and what NASA was able to pass on to them and any reaction. Wayne said they were informed some time ago that this was in work. He emphasized this is an engineering report, not a medical report. He wants solutions to the problem, so that in the future lives could be saved.

DD of flight crew ops (Janet ?) said they were notified years ago, and they had copies of the report ahead of time.

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #18 on: 12/30/2008 08:21 PM »
Tarik: 5 years have passed with 9 more flights to come, how have reentry procedures been altered based on this info?

Wayne: Improvements have been posted on NASA.gov in terms of hardware and procedures. Some are still being implemented. More things I would have liked to have done, but not practical to be completed by retirement date. Some things we would have done had shuttle been set to fly longer.

Pam: Additional elements to LOC and escape briefings, I tagged up with every commander since RTF since they weren't generally available. AO has placed more office for deorbit prep regarding suits / timing / duties.

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #19 on: 12/30/2008 08:22 PM »
Biggest change from this?

Wayne: Inertial reel change - it locks down on impact or rapid deceleration.

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #20 on: 12/30/2008 08:24 PM »
Noticed a lot of redactions from section 3 - why?

Pam: This is an engineering document, so included full description of analysis and basis, but surviving family members have a right to privacy.

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #21 on: 12/30/2008 08:26 PM »
Keith Cowing: Billions of people watched these happen live, how can we utilize this new method of recording everything?

Wayne: Videos of Columbia from personal cameras provided a huge input, especially early on when we didn't understand. In the future, we know that there is a network of amateur astronomers who use video devices to track, so should we have to call on them in the future it will go much faster and smoother.

Nigel: Video analysis was vitally important especially after we lost telemetry.

Offline CessnaDriver

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #22 on: 12/30/2008 08:28 PM »
Painful read. Husband and McCool started to fight back, Columbia herself fought it too.


Suvivable crew cabins from castastrophic failures possible someday from all this perhaps in future vehicles?









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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #23 on: 12/30/2008 08:30 PM »
Sandra from Daytona TImes: What was learned about objects that pulled away and exposed the crew module to depress?

Pam: Referring to 4-body breakup and video / analysis of debris field, two objects separated believed to be surrounding parts of forward fuselage around crew module. Determined through ballistics and video and debris field. Purpose of this report was to understand occupant protection and crew survival, so we had to approach what happened to structure.


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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #24 on: 12/30/2008 08:33 PM »
Irene: Why pick the time between holidays?

Pam: Just completed this month, but out of respect to crew and families, we waited until after Christmas but while children were still out of school and home with family members so they could discuss findings and elements of report with some privacy.

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #25 on: 12/30/2008 08:36 PM »
Seth: Would it be unfair to say that they weren't ready to do this since they weren't folly donned in their suits?

Pam: On the contrary, they were following procedures. Emphasis on deorbit has always been on prepping vehicle.

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #26 on: 12/30/2008 08:38 PM »
John from Orlando Sentinel: I've heard that there was resistance within NASA to make this report public?

Wayne: Not that way at all.

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #27 on: 12/30/2008 08:38 PM »
Tracy: Was this a relief finally knowing the crew didn't suffer?

Pam: Of course.


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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #28 on: 12/30/2008 08:39 PM »
Todd: John Clark had a family member onboard, did that color the investigation?

Pam: No.

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #29 on: 12/30/2008 08:42 PM »
Tarik: Did this give a sense of closure?

Pam: It is a special day to give this report to the spaceflight world so they can use it to protect others.

Wayne: Closure is not the operative word. There isn't a day that I go through that I don't think about the Columbia crew, or even the Challenger crew. I knew all these people, some better than others. But if you want to talk about regrets, that's another discussion. But our goal is to prevent accidents in the future.

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #30 on: 12/30/2008 08:44 PM »
Mark Mathews from Orlando: Were the spacesuit changes after Challenger?

Wayne: After CHallenger and Soyuz accident we realized we need to wear suits during launch / landing. Our concern was bailout in cold water, advanced suit developed by military but ACES suit is not as good of a pressure suit. So there's a tradeoff made to increase potential to survive bailout in Atlantic which is not useful in this accident. But Columbia wasn't survivable regardless of what suit they wore.

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #31 on: 12/30/2008 08:45 PM »
Is there concern that kids of today will forget Columbia?

Wayne: What we are doing today makes sure kids of today will study this when they design spacecraft. When I was in school, we analyzed big problems from the 19th and 20th centuries, early aircraft accidents etc.

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #32 on: 12/30/2008 08:48 PM »
Keith Cowing: We're going to a capsule, but if you look at private spacecraft they have wings. What from this will guide future designers between tried-and-true vs pushing the envelope?

Wayne: We are still in infancy of spacecraft. Each has pro's/con's.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #33 on: 12/30/2008 08:51 PM »
First question from Gina - "why the delay?" Wayne said it took longer than he expected, but this involved a lot of people doing a lot of investigating. Pam said that as things popped up that could be transferred to shuttle or Constellation, they were immediately sent along.

The answer seems to make a fair amount of sense.  Consider after all that they did not have to do this study.  NASA chose to do it.  Once they did that, you can ask why it was not a higher priority, but if you look at the wealth of information it contains, they were clearly trying to be comprehensive and not to hide anything.

In response to a later question they replied that the study was not finished until this month and that at the request of the families they held the release until after Christmas but before the children of the astronauts returned to school.

Offline eeergo

Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #34 on: 12/30/2008 08:55 PM »
Impressive report, lots of reading there. For armchair enthusiasts like me it also provides interesting insight into the orbiter's structure. The attitude changes with loss of control, breakup events... everything is described with forensic detail. From my point of view, thourough investigation of rare events like this one is an invaluable source of knowledge that couldn't be acquired in any other way. Crew families intimacy is important, but in-depth investigations should always be performed.

I always found the "burial" of the Challenger as a disgraceful event. In this respect, at the end of the report, one of the recommendations calls for a more detailed investigation of the Challenger remains... it'd be interesting to know how they would perform that?

-DaviD-

Offline marsavian

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #35 on: 12/30/2008 09:05 PM »
Kudos to Wayne Hale for handling this difficult painful subject with his natural class and sensitivity.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #36 on: 12/30/2008 09:17 PM »
Todd: John Clark had a family member onboard, did that color the investigation?

Pam: No.

Just to add to this: Jon Clark was deliberately involved in the accident investigation from the start (i.e. the CAIB).  He was certainly qualified, and he wanted to be involved, and by including him it gave the investigation credibility with the crew families.

Offline cape51

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #37 on: 12/30/2008 09:20 PM »
Only a few pages into and...geez. Not even enough time to get the visors down and locked? This sounds like as much a blessing as a curse.

The seat restraint issue sounds like a really big deal, even in a situation that is survivable.
Would suggest reading the whole thing (which I'm still doing, too)...not sure that's the whole story...remember that vehicle breakup didn't occur simultaneously with loss of control.


Just got finished skimming this report...can I just say that I love the detail of this report.  The report pointed to issues with the timeline as well as suit issues and astronaut issues as well.  I have to give NASA credit for distributing this because this coupled with the CAIB report adds to the information to as the multiple cultural and systemic issues with the shuttle progream.  The chilling echoes ofthe challenger that I recieved from this report stating that the astroauts were alive for up to 41 seconds prior to loss of consciousness trying to respond to the conditionsthat were out of their control.  Ill read the whole thing in the weeks and months to come.
CAPE51
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Offline Shadow Spork

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #38 on: 12/31/2008 12:01 AM »
The details in this report were very clear and concise. A lot of time was put into this, and it clearly shows in this report.

Offline gospacex

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #39 on: 12/31/2008 01:26 AM »
Read the report. Now we know why that particular bolt melted so much, and that one didn't. What we do not know, why Linda Ham turned down multiple requests to look at the damn wing...

The rescue of stranded Columbia would have been so much better story to remember and tell to my children than the story about streaks of metal vapor.

Offline clegg78

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #40 on: 12/31/2008 01:35 AM »
I am betting Ron Howard agrees with that...
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Offline jgoldader

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #41 on: 12/31/2008 01:35 AM »
I'm about halfway through, but feel comfortable saying that this report is a stunning piece of work.  It is, in many ways, a tribute to the crew.

One of my reactions after reading the CAIB report was, "I hope somebody writes a book about the work behind this report."  I feel even more strongly now.  The immense efforts of all involved with the Columbia investigations, in any form, should be properly acknowledged and appreciated.

If anybody reading this had a part in the CAIB or the present SCSIIT investigations, please accept my thanks for what you have done.

Jeff
Recovering astronomer

Offline khallow

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #42 on: 12/31/2008 01:55 AM »
Seat restraints only is important in situations that are survivable. And it's important to remember that a survivable situation would have a gentler environment for the crew. So lowering visors might not be an issue. Nor perhaps the seat restraints (which I haven't read up about). And if you want a crew to survive in case of total breakup of the reentering craft?

That's missing a bigger point: this is less about the specifics of the accident and more about training and procedures.  Seat restraints and visors may be important for the _next_ accident, so you want a system that encourages following proper procedures.

Quite true.

My point still holds though. This accident happened well outside of the regime where  training, procedures, and safety equipment would have worked. It's likely that significant improvements will be gleaned from this knowledge, but we are limited by the extreme nature of the accident. On the other hand, we have an excellent characterization of what is likely to be a common failure mode for winged spacecraft entering Earth's atmosphere.
Karl Hallowell

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #43 on: 12/31/2008 01:56 AM »
What we do not know, why Linda Ham turned down multiple requests to look at the damn wing...

What does that have to do with this report? I don't think you read it very well if you expected those type of issues to be addressed.

Offline astrobrian

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #44 on: 12/31/2008 03:03 AM »
Absolute stunning level of detail in the report, and I am barely halfway through.

Offline Seattle Dave

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #45 on: 12/31/2008 03:20 AM »
Painful read. Husband and McCool started to fight back, Columbia herself fought it too.


I remember some of the engineers speaking about how she also fought. What page is this referenced in the report?

Offline JimO

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #46 on: 12/31/2008 04:32 AM »
How is it that the seat shoulder harnesses are supposed to have 'failed', as some media sources are reporting? I can't find any reference to any system -- helmets and visors, shoulder harnesses, gloves, whatever -- 'failing' to perform their intended functions. Perhaps not succeeding in miraculously overcoming a situation they were never intended or designed for is a 'failure' to some journalists, but that's not a demand that journalism is at all prudent in raising since its application to other fields -- including journalism -- might be too embarrassing.

?What have I missed [and I sure could have -- most of my day was doing video hits fro clients, NOT reading the report in detail]...

Offline mikegi

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #47 on: 12/31/2008 04:48 AM »
How is it that the seat shoulder harnesses are supposed to have 'failed', as some media sources are reporting? I can't find any reference to any system -- helmets and visors, shoulder harnesses, gloves, whatever -- 'failing' to perform their intended functions. Perhaps not succeeding in miraculously overcoming a situation they were never intended or designed for is a 'failure' to some journalists, but that's not a demand that journalism is at all prudent in raising since its application to other fields -- including journalism -- might be too embarrassing.

?What have I missed [and I sure could have -- most of my day was doing video hits fro clients, NOT reading the report in detail]...
I believe they're referring to the "inertial reel mechanisms" not locking, resulting in the crew sustaining lethal injuries due to the thrashing about. However, the analysis shows that the crew was either already dead or unconscious from rapid decompression by that time. This is in Results 1&2 in the Executive Summary.

Offline Rusty_Barton

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #48 on: 12/31/2008 07:06 AM »
From the report it appears that decompression was so rapid that none of the six crew members wearing helmets had time to close their helmet visors before being rendered unconscious. The report further reports that, "the crew cannot keep their visors down throughout entry because doing so results in high oxygen concentrations in the cabin".

Seems like a real dilemma. You don't have time to close your visor in a rapid decompression before losing consciousness and you can't keep the visor closed due to design limitations.
« Last Edit: 12/31/2008 07:15 AM by Rusty_Barton »

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #49 on: 12/31/2008 11:43 AM »
Does anyone know of an archive of the teleconference either on the net or on the telephone?

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #50 on: 12/31/2008 11:51 AM »
Painful read. Husband and McCool started to fight back, Columbia herself fought it too.


I remember some of the engineers speaking about how she also fought. What page is this referenced in the report?

In the breakup sequence, there are various references of the efforts of Columbia's autopilot to stay on course (ailerons at maximum deflection, the 4 right yaw RCS thrusters firing continuosly, which would have depleted the reactants in a few seconds if the situation hadn't deteriorated as it did...)

Even after loss of control due to the hydraulic failure, with the 'nose-up' attitude, most of the port wing gone and the LH OMS pod being ripped away, the vehicule retained structural integrity for several seconds.

Amazing how the CDR managed to even reset the autopilot and start to recycle the APUs in those last seconds... that's what makes someone a hero.
-DaviD-

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #51 on: 12/31/2008 03:44 PM »

Correction

Amazing how the CDR managed to even reset the autopilot and the PLT start to recycle the APUs in those last seconds.

Offline jimvela

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #52 on: 12/31/2008 04:10 PM »

Correction

Amazing how the CDR managed to even reset the autopilot and the PLT start to recycle the APUs in those last seconds.

The level of professionalism and intense, detailed knowledge of the vehicle has always impressed me about the (few) astronauts that I've met.

Not just the above, but turning on the circulation pumps- which would have bought a little bit of hydraulic pressure under less dire circumstances.

Very impressive indeed.

Offline Skylon

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #53 on: 12/31/2008 04:18 PM »

I believe they're referring to the "inertial reel mechanisms" not locking, resulting in the crew sustaining lethal injuries due to the thrashing about. However, the analysis shows that the crew was either already dead or unconscious from rapid decompression by that time. This is in Results 1&2 in the Executive Summary.


Well, for me personally it rings as a rather violent way to go, if the crew HAD successfully locked their visors. It is a blessing that they did not, and were unconscious. As pointed out, it is something you want to do to keep in mind for future designs. NASA can't know what the circumstances of the next accident will be, but NASA can prepare.

Imagine a re-entering Orion in the future has a violent re-entry, lands on the side of a mountain and starts tumbling down (like Soyuz 18a). It would be rather disconcerting if the crew lived through entry, only to be killed, or seriously injured by the failure of their seat straps.

I still am amazed that Husband and McCool were level-headed enough to keep re-setting the auto-pilot. That even in that chaos, the urge wasn't "grab the stick and fly", but solve the problem (or figure it out), keep the auto-pilot on, and try and restore the APU's.

Offline gospacex

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #54 on: 12/31/2008 05:10 PM »
I still am amazed that Husband and McCool were level-headed enough to keep re-setting the auto-pilot. That even in that chaos, the urge wasn't "grab the stick and fly", but solve the problem (or figure it out), keep the auto-pilot on, and try and restore the APU's.

I am doubtful about "unconscious from depressurization" theory. Is it even true that people in good physical shape lose consciousness so quickly, in just a few seconds?

My theory is that they could have time to lock the visors if they would do it right away when Columbia started to rotate and break up, but the circumstances were very confusing, and they tried to understand what a hell is going on and fix it before it's too late. Locking your visor consumes some time. Also, having your visibility and mobility reduced by it might hamper your efforts...

Offline Jim

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #55 on: 12/31/2008 06:27 PM »

I am doubtful about "unconscious from depressurization" theory. Is it even true that people in good physical shape lose consciousness so quickly, in just a few seconds?

And you are basing this on what experience or schooling?   Do you have an medical degress?    Get real, and knock off the "conspiracy" crap.  It isn't a "theory"

Hypoxia makes everyone pass out quickly

Offline jgoldader

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #56 on: 12/31/2008 07:29 PM »

I am doubtful about "unconscious from depressurization" theory. Is it even true that people in good physical shape lose consciousness so quickly, in just a few seconds?

I actually don't doubt it at all.  Jumping into near-freezing temperature cold water can send someone into shock almost immediately, for example.  There were multiple references to military studies of the effects of exposure to high-altitude conditions in the report, and they'd be a good place to start, if any are available on-line.

Take people who're probably in a hyperventilating adrenaline rush, disorient them, deprive them of pressure in a matter of seconds, add in the immediate physical effects of exposure to vacuum... yes, I can easily see a very rapid onset of unconsciousness.

And also, I thought the report was actually quite explicit and complete its description of the environment in the crew cabin following LOS.  It was quite chilling to read.  Outside of the autopsy details in section 3 that were redacted for rather obvious reasons of decency (though if you read the conclusions and recommendations, very little imagination is needed to fill in likely redacted details; and the worst of it appears to have been post-mortem), very little seems to have been spared.

Jeff
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Offline dbhyslop

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #57 on: 12/31/2008 08:02 PM »
I am doubtful about "unconscious from depressurization" theory. Is it even true that people in good physical shape lose consciousness so quickly, in just a few seconds?

It's not like holding your breath underwater, where you're holding onto a supply of air.  The pressure differential pulls the air from your lungs no matter what.  After that, your lungs have essentially started working in reverse, with O2 diffusing out of your blood and into space.  Your brain requires a lot of oxygen to function, and you lose consciousness immediately, the same as if your heart stopped.

This stuff isn't written by middle school biology teachers--this isn't theory or conjecture, but empirical fact.  The report has references; including the technician whose suit failed during a test in an altitude chamber, exposing him to near-vacuum.

Offline Mark S

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #58 on: 12/31/2008 08:17 PM »
The report states that the second lethal category incident that the crew encountered was:

Quote

Conclusion L2-1. Between orbiter breakup and the forebody breakup, the free-flying forebody was rotating about all three axes at approximately 0.1 rev/sec and did not trim into a specific attitude. (p. 2-23)

Conclusion L2-2. The seat inertial reels did not lock. (p. 3-20)

Conclusion L2-3. Lethal injuries resulted from inadequate upper body restraint and protection during rotational motion. (p. 3-20, p. 3-87)


So the report also states that the deadly force was caused by a one-tenth revolution per second rate, or 6 rpm.  That doesn't seem fast enough to be fatal, unless I am missing something.  Which I am sure that I am.

Could someone set me straight here?  Thanks.

Mark S.


Offline clegg78

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #59 on: 12/31/2008 08:30 PM »
For $45.00 I sent the PDF to Kinkos and got it printed (B&W) bound and covered wiht tabs for each chapter.  Now I have some night time reading material (I hate bringing my laptop in the bedroom).

they did a great job with it.
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Offline Mark S

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #60 on: 12/31/2008 08:36 PM »

Could someone set me straight here?  Thanks.


Maybe because the cabin was experiencing high-g deceleration forces during this oh-so-slow rotation?

Geez, think next time before you post...    :(



Offline STS Tony

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #61 on: 12/31/2008 08:47 PM »
It seems that we might have two small blessings in disguise, with both the crews of Challenger and Columbia not suffering too much thanks to depressurization.

Also, on the inertial reels, haven't we been seeing numerous modifications to those on the orbiters in the FRR documentation on L2?

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #62 on: 01/01/2009 03:22 AM »
Painful read. Husband and McCool started to fight back, Columbia herself fought it too.


I remember some of the engineers speaking about how she also fought. What page is this referenced in the report?

In the breakup sequence, there are various references of the efforts of Columbia's autopilot to stay on course (ailerons at maximum deflection, the 4 right yaw RCS thrusters firing continuosly, which would have depleted the reactants in a few seconds if the situation hadn't deteriorated as it did...)

Even after loss of control due to the hydraulic failure, with the 'nose-up' attitude, most of the port wing gone and the LH OMS pod being ripped away, the vehicule retained structural integrity for several seconds.

Amazing how the CDR managed to even reset the autopilot and start to recycle the APUs in those last seconds... that's what makes someone a hero.

Husband, McCool, Clark, the whole crew, were all hero's as well as Challenger..
Attended space missions: STS-114, STS-124, STS-128, STS-135, Atlas V "Curiosity", Delta IV Heavy NROL-15, Atlas V MUOS-2, Delta IV Heavy NROL-37, Falcon 9 CRS-9, Falcon 9 JCSAT-16, Atlas V GOES-R, Falcon 9 SES-11, Falcon Heavy Demo.

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #63 on: 01/01/2009 09:25 AM »
So the report also states that the deadly force was caused by a one-tenth revolution per second rate, or 6 rpm.  That doesn't seem fast enough to be fatal, unless I am missing something.  Which I am sure that I am.

Could someone set me straight here?  Thanks.

Have a read of page 1-25, second paragraph onwards.  There is a little more in 3.4.2.2 but the parts that would really explain why the effects were considered fatal were are in the 'redacted' sections.  However, it does say that:

Quote
For the first 15 to 20 seconds, the modelled loads would not cause serious injuries to a conscious crew member who was capable of active bracing. An unconscious or deceased crew member would have been more susceptible to injury.

M.

Offline gospacex

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #64 on: 01/01/2009 12:10 PM »
I am doubtful about "unconscious from depressurization" theory. Is it even true that people in good physical shape lose consciousness so quickly, in just a few seconds?

And you are basing this on what experience or schooling?   Do you have an medical degress?    Get real, and knock off the "conspiracy" crap.  It isn't a "theory"

I do not think it's a conspiracy. I just expressed my doubt that it happens so fast that you have no time to close the visor.

If it is true, it looks like astronauts and cosmonauts are better to have their spacesuits fully closed during reentry.

BTW, I found the account of the SR-71 disintegrating at Mach 3+. One of the pilots survived, and wasn't even injured (another, unfortunately, had his neck broken). By pilot's account, he passed out at the moment of breakup and the suit systems and chutes all were activated automatically. He regained consciousness while descending on the chute. Wow. Simply wow. Very good design of the suit (and much of good luck).

Offline dbhyslop

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #65 on: 01/01/2009 01:21 PM »
t is true, it looks like astronauts and cosmonauts are better to have their spacesuits fully closed during reentry.

Read the report.  It explains exactly why this is not done.


Offline mikegi

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #66 on: 01/01/2009 02:28 PM »
I do not think it's a conspiracy. I just expressed my doubt that it happens so fast that you have no time to close the visor.

If it is true, it looks like astronauts and cosmonauts are better to have their spacesuits fully closed during reentry.
I'd go in the other direction: the Columbia crew might as well have been in regular clothes. If they had survived the depressurization, they would have been whipsawed to death a few seconds later. If they had conformal helmets and better restraints to survive the whipsawing, they would had been burned to death a few seconds after that when the crew module broke apart.

I wonder whether the shuttles crews shouldn't just go back to a shirt sleeve environment for the few remaining flights.

Offline hanschristian

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #67 on: 01/01/2009 02:29 PM »
Just read the whole report... yep, very chilling indeed...
The Sky is NOT the Limit...

Offline Jim

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #68 on: 01/01/2009 02:42 PM »
I wonder whether the shuttles crews shouldn't just go back to a shirt sleeve environment for the few remaining flights.


Asinine post.  There still is the matter of ditching and cabin leak

Offline chap

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #69 on: 01/01/2009 03:27 PM »
There are so many items for discussion in this report it almost warrants a Forum to itself!

Two (of the many) things that struck me were-

1. Questioning Titanium's use as a material (i.e. it's unexpected oxidisation and combustion)

2. A plea to other spacefaring nations (specifically the Chinese and Russians?) to be as open, rigorous and transparent about investigations into future incidents of a similar nature.

It was also nice to see on the very last page of the report - in addition to the names Challenger, Colombia and Apollo 1 - Soyuz 1 and Soyuz 11.


Offline gordo

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #70 on: 01/01/2009 04:17 PM »
If you pick up on the timeline in the report, the crew were troubleshooting the really serious loss of control issues for around 30 seconds before the main catastrophic break up event of the orbiter where they would have lost consciousness.

The big thing the report picks up is where the crew need to move from systems recovery to personal survivability mode, but you put any pilot in that position they will fight to the end to save their ship.

They simply had no thoughts, or not time to even think about closing their visors.  But of course this would be academic anyway with what happened over the next 30 seconds.

Offline mikegi

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #71 on: 01/01/2009 04:22 PM »
Asinine post.  There still is the matter of ditching and cabin leak
You're the expert. When does the crew have their suits on and fully configured so that they can survive a cabin leak during a mission?

Offline Skylon

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #72 on: 01/01/2009 04:36 PM »
Asinine post.  There still is the matter of ditching and cabin leak
You're the expert. When does the crew have their suits on and fully configured so that they can survive a cabin leak during a mission?

Launch.

Offline Jim

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #73 on: 01/01/2009 04:47 PM »
Asinine post.  There still is the matter of ditching and cabin leak
You're the expert. When does the crew have their suits on and fully configured so that they can survive a cabin leak during a mission?

For ascent and landing, the times you propose to eliminate the suits

Offline gospacex

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #74 on: 01/01/2009 05:09 PM »
I'd go in the other direction: the Columbia crew might as well have been in regular clothes. If they had survived the depressurization, they would have been whipsawed to death a few seconds later. If they had conformal helmets and better restraints to survive the whipsawing, they would had been burned to death a few seconds after that when the crew module broke apart.

I wonder whether the shuttles crews shouldn't just go back to a shirt sleeve environment for the few remaining flights.

This is true only for this particular accident. Had the hole been smaller and Columbia lose its wing not at 180 000 feet but at 60 000, things may have been different. "Test pilot in SR-71" case had shown that.

Offline gordo

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #75 on: 01/01/2009 06:22 PM »
The other key aim of the suits was, assuming you still had control of the orbiter, you could get to a safe bail out altitude and the suits supported this.

its been discussed before, but Columbia could have been a bail out scenario based on the early indication of trouble on the left gear, under these circumstances the suits are 100% fit for purpose

Offline kneecaps

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #76 on: 01/01/2009 07:22 PM »
I'd go in the other direction: the Columbia crew might as well have been in regular clothes. If they had survived the depressurization, they would have been whipsawed to death a few seconds later. If they had conformal helmets and better restraints to survive the whipsawing, they would had been burned to death a few seconds after that when the crew module broke apart.

I wonder whether the shuttles crews shouldn't just go back to a shirt sleeve environment for the few remaining flights.

This is true only for this particular accident. Had the hole been smaller and Columbia lose its wing not at 180 000 feet but at 60 000, things may have been different. "Test pilot in SR-71" case had shown that.

Don't forget the SR-71 situation is very different, in a military jet you pull a handle and weee out you go on the silk elevator. You can only bail from an Orbiter that is in a stable flight regime. The suits and 'chutes are there to allow bail out for low energy (not making a runway!) and for system failures that will lead to catastrophic situations.

From the 1st crew indication of ANY sort of trouble to the breakup was apparently no more than 40 seconds.

The key with this report is not to suggest that better harnesses (etc etc) could have saved the crew but to learn from how the equipment that was there worked when it was needed.

That's the point that has to be stressed.

Allow subject to scream. In space no one will hear.

Offline ANTIcarrot

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #77 on: 01/01/2009 07:48 PM »
As far as I can tell the report says that hot gas entered the left wing, destroyed the hydraulics, which lead to loss of controlled flight, and then the Critical Event. Looking at the graphic on page 1-17, Colombia looks like it assumed the same kind of 'belly flop' position that Challenger assumed just before it broke up.

Thought experiment: What if the shuttle had been refitted with electric actuators, rather than hydraulic ones, and control surface compensation software? Sure once the left wing basically melted off, fine, nothing more could have been done. But page 1-16 seems to say that it was complete loss of hydraulic pressure that doomed the shuttle, even if the wing was still largely intact.

Of course the wing would have melted eventually, but at 3G, aren't they slowing down by Mach 1 every 11 seconds? Another minute or two and they might be going slow enough for the crew module to survive. Or at least they might have had more warning. If the situation was not survivable what are the minimum changes needed to change that?

Offline eeergo

Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #78 on: 01/01/2009 07:59 PM »
As far as I can tell the report says that hot gas entered the left wing, destroyed the hydraulics, which lead to loss of controlled flight, and then the Critical Event. Looking at the graphic on page 1-17, Colombia looks like it assumed the same kind of 'belly flop' position that Challenger assumed just before it broke up.

Thought experiment: What if the shuttle had been refitted with electric actuators, rather than hydraulic ones, and control surface compensation software? Sure once the left wing basically melted off, fine, nothing more could have been done. But page 1-16 seems to say that it was complete loss of hydraulic pressure that doomed the shuttle, even if the wing was still largely intact.

Of course the wing would have melted eventually, but at 3G, aren't they slowing down by Mach 1 every 11 seconds? Another minute or two and they might be going slow enough for the crew module to survive. Or at least they might have had more warning. If the situation was not survivable what are the minimum changes needed to change that?

The attitude worsened the situation by entering a ballistic mode, consequently exerting higher loads and, I suppose, temperatures. But the atmosphere is too thin to break up the orbiter even in that belly-first attitude, contrary to Challenger.

The ultimately dooming event which led to Columbia's disintegration, probably quickened by the attitude as I say, was the loss of the wing and the failure of the payload bay doors. So, even if you kept the correct attitude, the wing would have failed and the bay would have been penetrated regardless. And probably the attitude couldn't have been kept given the RCS was at full power and fuel was almost depleted, the ailerons were at maximum deflection and the wing must have been deteriorating rapidly, worsening the strains. At least that's how I read it.
-DaviD-

Offline William Barton

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #79 on: 01/01/2009 08:03 PM »
If I hadn't found a good use for it, I'd have entirely too much imagination for my own good, and found the report a harrowing read, even redacted as it was. I also have just barely enough technical knowledge (from my days as a mechanic, and from research done for my writing) to have some sense of what was being discussed in the report. I found myself imagining what it must have been like sitting in one of the front seats, and went from that to trying to picture what was going on in the minds of the commander and the pilot. Which led to my wondering what they thought was going on, of course, and what they hoped their remediation might achieve. For the experts here, suppose the issue was just APU shutdown, for whatever reason (other than the wing burning off): Could they have been restarted somehow? And could that, or at least starting the recirculation pumps, have regained enough control for them to have survived reentry at least to a bailout regime, if not a landing?

Offline gospacex

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #80 on: 01/01/2009 08:13 PM »
This is true only for this particular accident. Had the hole been smaller and Columbia lose its wing not at 180 000 feet but at 60 000, things may have been different. "Test pilot in SR-71" case had shown that.

Don't forget the SR-71 situation is very different, in a military jet you pull a handle and weee out you go on the silk elevator. You can only bail from an Orbiter that is in a stable flight regime.

SR-71 pilot did not manage to pull that handle. At 3+ Mach he simply hadn't enough time to react.

The plane disintegrated around him, he was ripped out of the seat and seatbelts, smacked by airstream and lost consciousness. The suit inflated, oxygen supply turned on and drogue chute deployed fully automatically.

Granted, there was much luck that he wasn't killed by flying debris, but still, that SR-71 suit seems to be working better than Shuttle deorbit suits.
« Last Edit: 01/01/2009 08:14 PM by gospacex »

Offline Blackstar

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #81 on: 01/01/2009 08:59 PM »
Granted, there was much luck that he wasn't killed by flying debris, but still, that SR-71 suit seems to be working better than Shuttle deorbit suits.

This is based upon your extensive familiarity with pressure suits?

Stop comparing these events.  The SR-71 pilots wore the suit with the visor down and the suit pressurized at all times.  Different environment, different procedures.

Offline gordo

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #82 on: 01/01/2009 09:36 PM »
.......Which led to my wondering what they thought was going on, of course, and what they hoped their remediation might achieve. For the experts here, suppose the issue was just APU shutdown, for whatever reason (other than the wing burning off): Could they have been restarted somehow? And could that, or at least starting the recirculation pumps, have regained enough control for them to have survived reentry at least to a bailout regime, if not a landing?

In that final 60 secs or so before the final catastrophic event, I wonder too how much the crew on the flight deck had pieced together in their minds what was going on?

My thinking is that they maybe guessed that something in the gear bay had been taken out, maybe a failure in the door from the foam hit, this could explain some of the failures that they had seen.

Going forward to after loss of control, you can only guess that they key item they were working was to get hydraulic pressure back to get the vehicle back under control.

But my heart goes out to them, that they really would have had that sinking moment when you see you are out of control and have not hydraulic pressure/quantity.  Survival instincts kick in and you try everything and anything, but you know deep down its game over.


Offline jgoldader

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #83 on: 01/01/2009 09:45 PM »
Thought experiment: What if the shuttle had been refitted with electric actuators, rather than hydraulic ones, and control surface compensation software? Sure once the left wing basically melted off, fine, nothing more could have been done. But page 1-16 seems to say that it was complete loss of hydraulic pressure that doomed the shuttle, even if the wing was still largely intact.

Of course the wing would have melted eventually, but at 3G, aren't they slowing down by Mach 1 every 11 seconds? Another minute or two and they might be going slow enough for the crew module to survive. Or at least they might have had more warning. If the situation was not survivable what are the minimum changes needed to change that?

My first thought was, it might've made a huge difference.  But as I started typing, I remembered that there were serious aero issues in play even before the hyd system failed.  Sideslip was a problem, and the RCS thrusters were firing.  Eventually, the orbiter's control system would've been unable to prevent a LOC, if I had to hazard a guess.  The LOC would've happened at slightly lower alt/speed, but the end result would likely have been the same.

And on another note, for people critical of the visors up/down thing, the report noted that the suits themselves and all the nylon was savaged by the heat.  This was just not a survivable accident.  Even the seat belts were melted away, and I'd suppose the parachutes also.  Did the report mention recovery of any parachute fragments?

Jeff
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Offline Gary

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #84 on: 01/01/2009 09:45 PM »
I've read most of the report and am impressed with the detail in goes into. Yes, it's a harrowing read but I doubt that anyone here hasn't wondered about the condition of the crew and crew compartment during the breakup.

It's good that there is still a focus on this. It's good to see NASA continuing to improve saftey and understand issues beyond the foam strike on Columbia.

Offline Jorge

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #85 on: 01/01/2009 10:01 PM »

Thought experiment: What if the shuttle had been refitted with electric actuators, rather than hydraulic ones, and control surface compensation software? Sure once the left wing basically melted off, fine, nothing more could have been done. But page 1-16 seems to say that it was complete loss of hydraulic pressure that doomed the shuttle, even if the wing was still largely intact.

Electric actuators require wiring. Why do you think the wiring would hold up any better than the hydraulic lines did? Either way, once the actuators are disconnected from the power source, it is a loss-of-control situation.
JRF

Offline Stowbridge

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #86 on: 01/01/2009 10:36 PM »
Chris is being unusually quiet on this story.
Veteran space reporter.

Online Chris Bergin

Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #87 on: 01/01/2009 11:08 PM »
Chris is being unusually quiet on this story.

Everything is covered in this thread, via the report and the comments from those in a position to comment.

My grandfather used to say "best to say nothing until you have something useful to add."

Offline gordo

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #88 on: 01/01/2009 11:15 PM »
Reading on more and there are some critical comments about the challenger review process, mainly on the inaccessibility of the wreckage.  Would it not be time too for this to be pulled out of the old silo and stored properly, so it can be used for future research if needed, rather than hidden away as something that was to be forgotten.



Offline Patchouli

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #89 on: 01/01/2009 11:44 PM »

Thought experiment: What if the shuttle had been refitted with electric actuators, rather than hydraulic ones, and control surface compensation software? Sure once the left wing basically melted off, fine, nothing more could have been done. But page 1-16 seems to say that it was complete loss of hydraulic pressure that doomed the shuttle, even if the wing was still largely intact.

Electric actuators require wiring. Why do you think the wiring would hold up any better than the hydraulic lines did? Either way, once the actuators are disconnected from the power source, it is a loss-of-control situation.


They do have high temp wiring which can resist temps higher then which hydraulic fluid breaks down at.
It's commonly used on naval and commercial ocean going vessels and it would resist high temps longer then hydraulic line.
Plus the electrical system will not fail until a short or open circuit develops while the hydraulic circuit will fail once there's a large enough leak.

The best solution and it would likely a require a redesign of the wings would be have some sort of structure made from RENE 51 or some other heat resistant alloy behind the RCC fitted with heat pipes so it can deal with a hot spot.
The RCC forms the leading edge and there is not much behind it to stop any plasma steam other then a steel heat reflector that stops radiated heat from the RCC from getting to the aluminum superstructure, hydraulic lines and wiring.
Though some of the lines do run very close to the leading edge as shown in this pic.

Offline Rusty_Barton

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #90 on: 01/01/2009 11:45 PM »

And on another note, for people critical of the visors up/down thing, the report noted that the suits themselves and all the nylon was savaged by the heat.  This was just not a survivable accident.  Even the seat belts were melted away, and I'd suppose the parachutes also.  Did the report mention recovery of any parachute fragments?

Jeff

Agreed. The Columbia accident wasn't survivable. I was thinking more along the lines of future missions. Would a rapid decompression during re-entry, with an otherwise healthy orbiter, result in the loss of crew because the visors must be kept open?

Offline Patchouli

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #91 on: 01/01/2009 11:54 PM »
The only way I think reentry could be made a very low risk event would be one of three options.
1 give the reentry vehicle a high surface area to mass ratio so reentry becomes a mild event or 2 just have a very robust ,damage resistant and or tolerant TPS or 3 just check your TPS before reentry and be able to repair it.

Offline nathan.moeller

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #92 on: 01/01/2009 11:58 PM »
I know I'm late on this subject, but I just read it in detail this afternoon.  As awful as event was and will always be seen, it's of some comfort to know that the brave souls on board did not suffer through the catastrophe.  Heroes to the end...
www.astro95media.com - Lead Video & Graphics

Offline gospacex

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #93 on: 01/02/2009 01:24 AM »
As far as I can tell the report says that hot gas entered the left wing, destroyed the hydraulics, which lead to loss of controlled flight

My understanding of the report is that loss of attitude was caused by large chunks of left wing falling off. At the moment when even fully deflected ailerons + four RCS jets became incapable of keeping programmed attitude, hydraulics were working. They failed a few seconds later.

Offline gospacex

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #94 on: 01/02/2009 01:30 AM »
Granted, there was much luck that he wasn't killed by flying debris, but still, that SR-71 suit seems to be working better than Shuttle deorbit suits.

This is based upon your extensive familiarity with pressure suits?

Stop comparing these events.  The SR-71 pilots wore the suit with the visor down and the suit pressurized at all times.  Different environment, different procedures.

No, I'm not a SR-71 pilot. This is what pilot says (emphasis mine):

Quote
AS FULL AWARENESS took hold, I realized I was not dead, but had somehow separated from the airplane. I had no idea how this could have happened; I hadn't initiated an ejection. The sound of rushing air and what sounded like straps flapping in the wind confirmed I was falling, but I couldn't see anything. My pressure suit's face plate had frozen over and I was staring at a layer of ice.

The pressure suit was inflated, so I knew an emergency oxygen cylinder in the seat kit attached to my parachute harness was functioning. It not only supplied breathing oxygen, but also pressurized the suit, preventing my blood from boiling at extremely high altitudes. I didn't appreciate it at the time, but the suit's pressurization had also provided physical protection from intense buffeting and g-forces. That inflated suit had become my own escape capsule.
...
Bill Weaver

Offline Nascent Ascent

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #95 on: 01/02/2009 01:32 AM »
As I read the report I kept wondering what would it have taken for this to be survivable.  I understand that nothing could have been done in this instance, but rather a thought-experiment as to what it would have taken.

For example, let's say the Shuttle was designed with a re-entry survivable crew compartment?  Imagine a Orion-like compartment embedded into the forebody that would have remained intact. Perhaps there would have needed to be a system to ensure proper orientation.




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Offline Jorge

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #96 on: 01/02/2009 02:04 AM »
As far as I can tell the report says that hot gas entered the left wing, destroyed the hydraulics, which lead to loss of controlled flight

My understanding of the report is that loss of attitude was caused by large chunks of left wing falling off.

Your understanding is flawed; ANTIcarrot is correct:

Quote
Significantly, ground-based video shows a marked change in the appearance of the orbiter’s trail at GMT 13:59:37 (immediately after the end of the first RGPC data set, RGPC-1) (figure 2.1-5). The width of the trail increases at this time, which likely indicates a change in the orbiter’s flight condition. In addition to the change in the width of the trail, the trail appears to pulse or “corkscrew” over a period of less than 1 second. It is possible that a large debris event (such as loss of a major portion of the wing) may have caused the LOC. However, the debris event closest to the LOS that was apparent in the video occurred 2 seconds, or more than 60 frames (figure 2.1-6), after the change in the trail’s appearance. This suggests that it was subsequent to the LOC and was not the cause.

Conclusion L3-1. Complete loss of hydraulic pressure to the aerosurfaces resulting from the breach in the left wing was the probable proximal cause for the vehicle loss of control.
JRF

Offline tnphysics

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #97 on: 01/02/2009 05:27 AM »
Their is one thing, and (to my knowledge) one thing only, that could have save the crew of Columbia after the commencement of entry, given that the Orbiter has no escape system designed for such a contingency.

This is an entry suit (and seat) designed to withstand entry conditions.  This would require a heat shield and a Cg such that the heat shield would flip forward under aerodynamic loads, but would be possible.  Adding an ejection seat would create an orbital ejection seat.

Offline Ben the Space Brit

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #98 on: 01/02/2009 10:33 AM »
I remember when the BBC first reported on the loss of the Columbia, the anchor mentioned that "no escape pods were fitted" to the shuttle.  At the time that caught my attention as sounding a bit odd.  However, as has been pointed out in this thread, the loss of the Columbia was unsurvivable for a variety of reasons, one of which being that the design of the shuttle orbiter has no escape system to allow for crew escape in the case of an unrecoverable failure of the vehicle as a whole.

Whilst it has the feel of 'wisdom in hindsight', I find myself wondering if the crews of both the Challenger and the Columbia would have both survived their respective accidents if the orbiter's crew module could detach for a ballistic re-entry and parachute-assisted landing in the same way as the crew escape pod on the old F-111 bomber.
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Offline Justin Space

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #99 on: 01/02/2009 10:43 AM »
The BBC also had some complete idiot on, claiming to be an Astromony expert, saying there was also another orbiter docked to the ISS, stranded, with no means of "escape" for both the shuttle and station crew. Absolutely made it up as he was going on. Typical BBC standards nowadays.

Your crew escape question has been covered, over and over again, on here. First rule is to forget about what you've seen on a F-111. Chalk and Cheese vehicles.
« Last Edit: 01/02/2009 10:45 AM by Justin Space »

Offline C5C6

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #100 on: 01/02/2009 11:30 AM »
I'm not sure about this, perhaps some of you could help me:

 - do you people agree that new procedures must be applied so astronauts are able to use the ACES fully configured (with gloves, locked visors) during reentry???

 - about the loss of hydraulic power, when you loose it...the aerosurfaces stay in the position they were when the power was lost or they start moving freely by the aerodynamic forces??

Offline Ben the Space Brit

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #101 on: 01/02/2009 11:54 AM »
- do you people agree that new procedures must be applied so astronauts are able to use the ACES fully configured (with gloves, locked visors) during reentry???

I might be wrong, but I undesrstood that the problem is that they can't be used in that manner - they just suck up too much consumables too quickly.

- about the loss of hydraulic power, when you loose it...the aerosurfaces stay in the position they were when the power was lost or they start moving freely by the aerodynamic forces??

Hmm... I'm not sure about that one.  A lot would depend on the scale of the aerodynamic forces involved.  However, as a rule of thumb, I would expect the surfaces to initially lock in their last position because no new control instructions are being processed.  However, as pressure in the system decreases, the aerodynamic forces would slowly push them into a lower-air resistance position.

However, this is somewhat hypothetical.  Unless my understanding of the situation was totally wrong, the breakup of the orbiter was so fast that the control surfaces were all destroyed far quicker than they could have been forced out into a new position.
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Offline eeergo

Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #102 on: 01/02/2009 02:30 PM »

 - about the loss of hydraulic power, when you loose it...the aerosurfaces stay in the position they were when the power was lost or they start moving freely by the aerodynamic forces??

Per the report:
"Hydraulic supply pressures were reading 0 psi and
the reservoir quantities were at 0% on all three
systems; the lack of hydraulic pressure results in the
aerosurfaces (elevons, body flap, and rudder) werefree to move in the wind stream."
-DaviD-

Online rdale

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #103 on: 01/02/2009 02:45 PM »
Maybe they should post the report so people could read it before commenting ;)

Offline gospacex

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #104 on: 01/02/2009 03:42 PM »
Your understanding is flawed; ANTIcarrot is correct

I stand corrected, thanks.

Offline gospacex

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #105 on: 01/02/2009 03:47 PM »
I'm not sure about this, perhaps some of you could help me:
 - do you people agree that new procedures must be applied so astronauts are able to use the ACES fully configured (with gloves, locked visors) during reentry???

In an alternate universe where Shuttle is not retired, I'd say yes. If it was possible in SR-71, why not in Shuttle?

Quote
- about the loss of hydraulic power, when you loose it...the aerosurfaces stay in the position they were when the power was lost or they start moving freely by the aerodynamic forces??

Probably does not matter, since loss of hydraulics means loss of attitude control either way, with flapping and with stuck aerosurfaces.

Offline dbhyslop

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #106 on: 01/02/2009 03:53 PM »

In an alternate universe where Shuttle is not retired, I'd say yes. If it was possible in SR-71, why not in Shuttle?


Maybe they should post the report so people could read it before commenting ;)

Offline Jorge

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #107 on: 01/02/2009 05:57 PM »
I'm not sure about this, perhaps some of you could help me:

 - do you people agree that new procedures must be applied so astronauts are able to use the ACES fully configured (with gloves, locked visors) during reentry???

It would not just be procedures that would need to be changed; the suit itself would have to be modified not to dump O2 into the cabin. That is the reason they don't lock visors and initiate O2 flow now.

The suit mod could probably not be implemented before the 2010 retirement.

So no, I do not agree.
JRF

Offline jgoldader

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #108 on: 01/02/2009 06:47 PM »

And on another note, for people critical of the visors up/down thing, the report noted that the suits themselves and all the nylon was savaged by the heat.  This was just not a survivable accident.  Even the seat belts were melted away, and I'd suppose the parachutes also.  Did the report mention recovery of any parachute fragments?

Jeff

Agreed. The Columbia accident wasn't survivable. I was thinking more along the lines of future missions. Would a rapid decompression during re-entry, with an otherwise healthy orbiter, result in the loss of crew because the visors must be kept open?


I'm not sure what set of circumstances could produce a rapid decompression yet be otherwise benign.  The Columbia report concluded that the small crew compartment debris found west of the main debris field strongly suggests that the decompression was due to multiple several-inches-wide failures in the crew compartment.  That would have been a very rapid decompression event resulting from a catastrophic structural failure.

If, say, the problem was due to a bad valve (as in Soyuz's decompression accident) then there would've possibly been time to lower visors.  That's about the only kind of event I can think of that would leave the orbiter intact.

In the end, one of the surprises I found in the report is the really limited value of the suits.  I always assumed they offered protection during the entire launch and entry phases, though as Jim (IIRC) has said, the suits are intended as protection in a bailout event.

The suits gave me a false sense of security.  It's easy to say that the crew should've been buttoned up in the suits, but again, functioning suits would've had the effect of postponing their deaths for a few seconds... and maybe left them awake and aware of that event.  Things were most merciful as they happened, I suspect.

Jeff
Recovering astronomer

Offline Skylon

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #109 on: 01/02/2009 07:24 PM »

And on another note, for people critical of the visors up/down thing, the report noted that the suits themselves and all the nylon was savaged by the heat.  This was just not a survivable accident.  Even the seat belts were melted away, and I'd suppose the parachutes also.  Did the report mention recovery of any parachute fragments?

Jeff

Agreed. The Columbia accident wasn't survivable. I was thinking more along the lines of future missions. Would a rapid decompression during re-entry, with an otherwise healthy orbiter, result in the loss of crew because the visors must be kept open?

I'm in the same boat here. I never intended to suggest that had the crew better restraints and closed their visors they would have survived. Anyone hawking that idea is an idiot, grossly distorting the meaning of the report (and surprise, surprise...it seems that's what the media is doing).

The suits and seat restraints however clearly need to work better, even in a survivable situation.

Offline ANTIcarrot

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #110 on: 01/02/2009 08:30 PM »

Thought experiment: What if the shuttle had been refitted with electric actuators, rather than hydraulic ones, and control surface compensation software?
Electric actuators require wiring. Why do you think the wiring would hold up any better than the hydraulic lines did? Either way, once the actuators are disconnected from the power source, it is a loss-of-control situation.

That depends on the sophistication of the installation. My question wasn't really what could/should have been done on the shuttle, but rather if a future vehicle could be built to survive this kind of accident.

In answer to your question, of course electrical circuits can be made more durable than hydraulics. Cut the pipe and the whole system empties. Cut a wire (especially on a ring main) and power can still find a way through. Fuses and circuit breakers can effectively isolate a section of wire that has melted. Theoretically, (especially on a upgrade swapout) you can exchange heavy hydraulic pipes with batteries attached to each actuator; so you can continue if the control circuit remains intact, even if main power is cut. Even more theoretically, you can run the actuators on wifi, even if the control wires are cut. :)

In all seriousness, Boeing is looking at electrical actuators enviously, hoping to fit them as much as possible to the dreamliner (breaks only) and later aircraft. The advantages I mention are not entirely theoretical. They really are much more durable than conventional hydraulics.
http://www.nasa.gov/centers/dryden/news/NewsReleases/1998/98-84_pf.html

An interesting website on Colombia accident:
http://www.columbiassacrifice.com/&3_shttlovrvw.htm
« Last Edit: 01/02/2009 08:30 PM by ANTIcarrot »

Offline sbt

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #111 on: 01/02/2009 09:43 PM »
Cut the pipe and the whole system empties.

Not necessarily so - otherwise the DC-10 and derivatives wouldn't be allowed to fly.

There are devices known as 'Hydraulic Fuses' that prevent fluid loss when a system is breached. Of course they add complexity and its a trade-off between failures induced by problems with them and failures due to system breaches.

Similarly electrical systems have failure modes that hydraulics don't. Hydraulics suffer from fluid loss when cut, electrics have problems with shorts when cut. Hydraulics have problems with contamination, electrics have problems with interference..

There are also trades with actuator and generator size, power and actuation rate. There is also the fact that if you need a big Hydraulic power unit for one thing (SSME) then it makes sense to use hydraulics for other, mid power, items (need only a moderate increase in system power) rather than beef up the electrical generation system, adding weight, complexity and volume.

Rick
I am not interested in your political point scoring, Ad Hominem attacks, personal obsessions and vendettas. - No matter how cute and clever you may think your comments are.

Offline Jorge

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #112 on: 01/02/2009 10:01 PM »

Thought experiment: What if the shuttle had been refitted with electric actuators, rather than hydraulic ones, and control surface compensation software?
Electric actuators require wiring. Why do you think the wiring would hold up any better than the hydraulic lines did? Either way, once the actuators are disconnected from the power source, it is a loss-of-control situation.

That depends on the sophistication of the installation. My question wasn't really what could/should have been done on the shuttle, but rather if a future vehicle could be built to survive this kind of accident.

In answer to your question, of course electrical circuits can be made more durable than hydraulics. Cut the pipe and the whole system empties. Cut a wire (especially on a ring main) and power can still find a way through. Fuses and circuit breakers can effectively isolate a section of wire that has melted. Theoretically, (especially on a upgrade swapout) you can exchange heavy hydraulic pipes with batteries attached to each actuator; so you can continue if the control circuit remains intact, even if main power is cut. Even more theoretically, you can run the actuators on wifi, even if the control wires are cut. :)

In all seriousness, Boeing is looking at electrical actuators enviously, hoping to fit them as much as possible to the dreamliner (breaks only) and later aircraft. The advantages I mention are not entirely theoretical. They really are much more durable than conventional hydraulics.
http://www.nasa.gov/centers/dryden/news/NewsReleases/1998/98-84_pf.html

They are not durable enough to make any kind of meaningful difference in a Columbia-style accident.

The reason NASA was interested in electric actuators was the possibility of getting rid of the APUs (which are a major orbiter hazard), not the vulnerability of the hydraulics.

Quote
An interesting website on Colombia accident:
http://www.columbiassacrifice.com/&3_shttlovrvw.htm

That is a HAARP conspiracy site (i.e. raving lunacy). I recommend avoiding it.
JRF

Offline joema

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #113 on: 01/03/2009 02:34 AM »
...if the crews of both the Challenger and the Columbia would have both survived....in the same way as the crew escape pod on the old F-111 bomber...
In theory the Challenger accident (not Columbia) might have been survivable with a cabin ejection system. This assumes the system would (like Apollo) have automatic abort sensing to eliminate the delay of human interaction in critical situations.

However there were sound reasons such a system wasn't included in the shuttle design.

An F-111-style cabin ejection system was considered for the shuttle during the "Phase B" design. Rockwell found it would have added about 14,000 lbs (6,350 kg) to the vehicle mass.

A post-Challenger study found that retrofitting a cabin escape system would add over 30,000 lbs to the orbiter empty weight.

Note the heaviest payload ever flown to ISS is about 36,000 lbs (16,330 kg). So a cabin ejection system would consume much of the payload capacity.

You can brain-storm all kinds of escape concepts, such as a self-stabilized ejectable reentry capsule with its own thermal protection. When drawn on a napkin they look interesting. In the real world they have significant operational limitations and mass penalties, plus they introduce new sources of risk.

The Apollo LES rocket was 33 ft x 4 ft and weighed 8,000 lbs. By contrast the Apollo capsule itself weighed only 12,000 lbs.

The Orion Launch Abort rocket might weigh 17,000 lbs, and will have more thrust than the Atlas booster that launched John Glenn into orbit.

Likewise a shuttle cabin escape system would require hugely powerful separation rockets, plus all kinds of pyrotechnics, stabilization, parachutes, landing airbags, etc. It would be very heavy and complex, would only work in certain situations, and would introduce additional risks: fire, explosion, uncommanded deployment, spurious abort trigger, etc.

Offline Ben the Space Brit

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #114 on: 01/03/2009 12:03 PM »
@ joema,

I do not doubt your figures and accept that a shuttle orbiter with a crew escape system would be heavier and have its own unique raft of technical problems.  I actually agree that there was no practical way to add such a capability to the desgn post-Challenger.  My point is tht I just cannot help but shake my head that the people at NASA and Rockwell who originally designed the bird actually thought that this was not something that the vehicle needed

@ Rusty_Barton

The only full cabin depressurisation scenarios I can think of where the overall structural integrity of the cabin wouldn't be automatically compromised are:

1) Debris impact shattering one or more of the cabin windows;

2) The main hatch being jettisoned in flight due to a malfuction.
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Offline joema

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #115 on: 01/03/2009 01:40 PM »
...I just cannot help but shake my head that the people at NASA and Rockwell who originally designed the bird actually thought that this was not something that the vehicle needed...
They didn't think it wasn't needed. It wasn't lightly dismissed, as if the vehicle was too reliable to need it.

Rather after careful examination, they judged the limited escape capability not worth the increased mass, risk and complexity.

In hindsight they were possibly right. Such a system might have saved Challenger's crew, or might not have. It clearly wouldn't have saved Columbia's crew.

In both cases whether crew survived or not, it would still be a disaster and the program halted while the accident was investigated. You'd still have to build a replacement orbiter.

While the shuttle looks like an airplane, its operating envelope is vastly larger. Likewise a cabin escape system might look like an F-111's, which covers the entire flight envelope on THAT plane. However a shuttle cabin escape system would only cover a small fraction of ITS flight envelope. You pay the cost, mass, complexity, risk -- and in return only get protection over a fraction of the launch and descent.

Offline Ben the Space Brit

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #116 on: 01/03/2009 01:51 PM »
However a shuttle cabin escape system would only cover a small fraction of ITS flight envelope.

Well, it doesn't have to cover the entire flight envelope. Other scenarios would require different solutions, in which immediately abandoning ship most certainly would not be necessary (failure of engines needed for de-orbit, for example).  You would only need for the escape system for covering certain parts of the flight envelope, which, by coincidence, also happen to be the most dangerous - early phase ascent and re-entry.
"Oops! I left the silly thing in reverse!" - Duck Dodgers

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Offline mikegi

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #117 on: 01/03/2009 02:43 PM »
However a shuttle cabin escape system would only cover a small fraction of ITS flight envelope.

Well, it doesn't have to cover the entire flight envelope. Other scenarios would require different solutions, in which immediately abandoning ship most certainly would not be necessary (failure of engines needed for de-orbit, for example).  You would only need for the escape system for covering certain parts of the flight envelope, which, by coincidence, also happen to be the most dangerous - early phase ascent and re-entry.
Are abort situations which would require suits and/or escape mechanisms actually survivable? For example, in order to bailout of the shuttle, it would need to be in a relatively stable glide for quite a while -- time to get into position, configure the system, actually jump, etc. If the shuttle was in good enough shape to do that (intact, controllable, etc), wouldn't it be better to attempt to land?

For suits, a leak could happen at any time so it seems like the crew should wear them at all times. Slow leaks seem to be the only ones that are survivable.

I already know, Jim, that this is an "asinine" post so there's no need for you to reply...

Offline eeergo

Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #118 on: 01/03/2009 03:55 PM »

Are abort situations which would require suits and/or escape mechanisms actually survivable? For example, in order to bailout of the shuttle, it would need to be in a relatively stable glide for quite a while -- time to get into position, configure the system, actually jump, etc. If the shuttle was in good enough shape to do that (intact, controllable, etc), wouldn't it be better to attempt to land?

For suits, a leak could happen at any time so it seems like the crew should wear them at all times. Slow leaks seem to be the only ones that are survivable.

I already know, Jim, that this is an "asinine" post so there's no need for you to reply...


No. You can easily see that reading some of the info in the Shuttle Q&A.

What if the landing gear does not deploy? Perhaps it would be survivable, but not a situation you want to be in, so the "per the book" plan is to bailout. What if there's an imminent danger of structural failure at low altitude, or of uncontrollability? Or if there has been a launch failure like Challenger and the orbiter is severely damaged or outright destroyed but you can still open the hatch and jump?
-DaviD-

Offline jgoldader

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #119 on: 01/03/2009 04:03 PM »
@ joema,
 

@ Rusty_Barton

The only full cabin depressurisation scenarios I can think of where the overall structural integrity of the cabin wouldn't be automatically compromised are:

1) Debris impact shattering one or more of the cabin windows;

2) The main hatch being jettisoned in flight due to a malfuction.

Both of these would be catastrophic failures during either launch or re-entry.  Hot gas would enter the crew compartment.  (During an RTLS- or TAL-type abort scenario, the orbiter actually reenters the atmosphere, so there would still be significant heating.)


Jeff
Recovering astronomer

Offline joema

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #120 on: 01/03/2009 04:50 PM »
...You would only need for the escape system for covering certain parts of the flight envelope, which, by coincidence, also happen to be the most dangerous - early phase ascent and re-entry.
The entire ascent phase is dangerous. STS-51F nearly ditched in the Atlantic (which would have been non-survivable) due to an SSME failure late in the ascent. To a lesser degree the reentry phase is. An F-111-style cabin ejection system would cover only a fraction of the ascent and descent. Just doing that would incur a huge mass penalty.

You can hypothesize ever more sophisticated abort systems covering ever larger flight envelopes -- essentially an ejectable mini-spacecraft with its own independent RCS and thermal protection. The mass penalty for those would be even greater.

We have the technology to build those; however it would consume most of the shuttle payload ability. Even if the shuttle flew 20 more years it wouldn't be worthwhile, as the escape system would limit the shuttle payload to a trivial amount.

To have a cabin escape system AND a useful payload would require a total redesign. The entire system -- propulsion, ET, orbiter, etc, would have to be re-sized for a 15-20,000 lb payload increase.

The only feasible escape method with the current design is ejection seats. Those were used on the first four flights. In theory they could be used for the four upper deck seats, with limited design changes. That would restrict subsequent flights to a crew of four. Those would cover about the same envelope as STS-1 through 4, roughly 100,000 ft and Mach 3. They wouldn't help any during reentry, and there's some doubt about ejecting during stage 1 due to hitting the SRB exhaust.

Offline Rusty_Barton

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #121 on: 01/03/2009 09:11 PM »
Quote
The only full cabin depressurisation scenarios I can think of where the overall structural integrity of the cabin wouldn't be automatically compromised are:

1) Debris impact shattering one or more of the cabin windows;

2) The main hatch being jettisoned in flight due to a malfuction.

Both of these would be catastrophic failures during either launch or re-entry.  Hot gas would enter the crew compartment.  (During an RTLS- or TAL-type abort scenario, the orbiter actually reenters the atmosphere, so there would still be significant heating.)


Jeff

What about a penetration from the payload bay by some loose object during reentry? Couldn't that cause a rapid decompression without entry of hot gas?
« Last Edit: 01/03/2009 09:13 PM by Rusty_Barton »

Offline Skylon

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #122 on: 01/03/2009 09:32 PM »

The entire ascent phase is dangerous. STS-51F nearly ditched in the Atlantic (which would have been non-survivable) due to an SSME failure late in the ascent. To a lesser degree the reentry phase is. An F-111-style cabin ejection system would cover only a fraction of the ascent and descent. Just doing that would incur a huge mass penalty.



I thought the SSME shut-down far enough into the flight that a TAL, not an outright ditch, was the position the STS 51-F crew was nearly put in (ultimately going with the ATO).
« Last Edit: 01/03/2009 09:32 PM by Skylon »

Offline psloss

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #123 on: 01/03/2009 10:15 PM »
I thought the SSME shut-down far enough into the flight that a TAL, not an outright ditch, was the position the STS 51-F crew was nearly put in (ultimately going with the ATO).
That's correct.  As noted in one of the Q&A threads, they got past the single-engine TAL performance call before engine limits were reset; in fact, as mkirk noted, the limits weren't re-enabled until after "single-engine TAL"...only to go back to inhibit shortly thereafter:
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=2030.msg36704#msg36704

Offline joema

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #124 on: 01/04/2009 02:53 AM »
...I thought the SSME shut-down far enough into the flight that a TAL, not an outright ditch, was the position the STS 51-F crew was nearly put in...
The shutdown happened about 1 min 9 sec before single-engine TAL capability. If they'd lost a 2nd SSME during that period, it would have resulted in a ditching. And there was risk of that -- two engines had sensor problems, but fortunately only one shut down.

This illustrates the entire ascent is dangerous, not just stage 1. That in turn impacts choice of ejection system.

Offline madscientist197

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #125 on: 01/04/2009 08:35 AM »
What if the landing gear does not deploy? Perhaps it would be survivable, but not a situation you want to be in, so the "per the book" plan is to bailout.

With prior knowledge, yes. But the landing gear is deployed quite late, so I suspect the best they could do if it failed to deploy is a belly landing  :-[  That wouldn't be very survivable.
« Last Edit: 01/04/2009 08:37 AM by madscientist197 »
John

Offline psloss

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #126 on: 01/04/2009 11:45 AM »
With prior knowledge, yes. But the landing gear is deployed quite late, so I suspect the best they could do if it failed to deploy is a belly landing  :-[  That wouldn't be very survivable.
There was some discussion prior to entry about effects of hot gas in the MLG wells, more focused on flats; links noted in the forums here a while ago (not sure if they're still live):
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=8549.msg157729#msg157729

Offline jgoldader

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Re: New NASA Report on Loss of Columbia
« Reply #127 on: 01/04/2009 12:20 PM »
Quote
The only full cabin depressurisation scenarios I can think of where the overall structural integrity of the cabin wouldn't be automatically compromised are:

1) Debris impact shattering one or more of the cabin windows;

2) The main hatch being jettisoned in flight due to a malfuction.

Both of these would be catastrophic failures during either launch or re-entry.  Hot gas would enter the crew compartment.  (During an RTLS- or TAL-type abort scenario, the orbiter actually reenters the atmosphere, so there would still be significant heating.)


Jeff

What about a penetration from the payload bay by some loose object during reentry? Couldn't that cause a rapid decompression without entry of hot gas?


Hmmm... yes, I would guess.  Obviously, that's a pretty unlikely event.  And anything big enough to breach the crew compartment pressure vessel might do so in a big way, not a small one.  Let's hope we never find out.

Jeff
Recovering astronomer

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