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Data Analysis on the Space Shuttle Challenger and Columbia Accidents Essay

1.) Why or how did the issues arise?

Challenger Space Shuttle

* Management’s decision for the launch to proceed.

Cause: The upper-level management in both Moton Thiokol and Marshall Flight Center ignored the engineering expertise of the Thiokol engineers who worked on the Solid Rocket Booster Development Program.

Effect: An order for the launch to proceed has been decided even when all the facts where unknown about the problem on the SRB design on low-temperatures.

* Political Pressures

Cause: * The Congress was becoming increasingly unhappy with the delays in the shuttle project and shuttle performance. * NASA was feeling some urgency in the program because the European Space Agency was developing what seemed to be a cheaper alternative to the shuttle, which could potentially put the shuttle out of business. * NASA also felt pressure to get the Challenger launched on time so that the next shuttle launch, which was to carry a probe to examine Halley’s Comet, would be launched before a Russian probe designed to do the same thing. * Additional political pressure to launch the Challenger before the upcoming state-of-the-union address, in which Pres. Reagan hoped to mention the shuttle.

Effect: NASA allowed scheduling pressures to supercede good engineering judgement.

Columbia Space Shuttle

* Cultural issues within NASA: “Broken Safety Culture”

Cause: The problem with the foam detaching from the fuel tank during launch had already happened on previous occasions, as well as with the foam had striking the shuttle. Solutions to the problem had been proposed over the years but none had been implemented. Although NASA engineers initially identified foam strikes as a majority safety concern for the shuttle after many launches with no safety problems due to the foam, NASA management became complacent and overlooked the potential for the foam to cause major problems.

Effect: The detachment of the foam damaged the tiles that led to the subsequent failure of critical components of the shuttle.

2.) Who is affected most by this issues?

The stakeholders of the following issues includes the American government and its people that funds and delegates the agency with the responsibility for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research. Also, and the most important stakeholders, are the crew whose lives are at stake at every mission.

3.) What are the constraints and opportunities?

An apparent constraint on the situation of the Challenger space shuttle mission is the lack of time on developing new designs for the Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) and using it. It is mentioned in the case study that Thiokol engineers redesigned the field joints without O-rings. Instead they used steel billets which should have been better able to withstand the hot gases. Unfortunately, the new design was not ready in time for the Challenger flight. The Challenger space shuttle mission back then was pressured on a tight schedule. Also it should be seen that the technology back then was still lacking. However, it should also be looked at that, the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disaster can lead to major change and improvements on the safety and ethics culture in NASA.


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