Case Study 4 The Space Shuttle Disasters
This module we will look at both the Challenger crash that happened in 1986 and the Columbia crash that happened 17 years later. What you will do in this module is pick one of these crashes and analyze it using a Fault tree analysis. Watch both videos first, then decide which crash you want to focus on. Then read the rest of the information for the crash you want to use to accomplish your case study. Be advised, the discussion topic this week will discuss some issues from both of these crashes so you will need to be familiar with some of the issues that occurred in both.
First, view the following videos:
- Challenger Disaster Live on CNN (2:23 – YouTube) (Links to an external site.)
- Challenger Accident Investigation (1986) (44:45 – YouTube) (Links to an external site.)
- This NASA video is almost 45 minutes, but the analysis starts at 15:00 minutes if you want to fast forward to that point. Click the picture to link to YouTube for video.
- Seconds from Disaster, Season 2, Episode 1, Columbia’s Last Flight (50:10 – Alexander Street via the Hunt Library) (Links to an external site.)
- This excellent video analysis of the crash of the Space Shuttle Columbia is about 50 minutes long. However, the analysis portion starts at 23:54 if you want to fast forward to that point.
Second, read the following sources:
Chapters 4 and 6 of the Presidential Commission Report, also known as the Rogers Report, on the Challenger accident (NASA).
- Chapter IV: The Cause of the Accident (Links to an external site.)
- Chapter VI: An Accident Rooted in History (Links to an external site.)
Read the parts of the Columbia accident investigation that are applicable to your project. Chapter 2 is the flight sequence. Chapter 3 is the accident analysis. Chapters 5 – 7 discuss the issues at NASA and compare some of the issues between the Columbia crash and the Challenger crash.
Columbia Accident Investigation Board: Report, Vol. 1 (Links to an external site.) (Alexander Street via the Hunt Library)
If you chose the Challenger crash accomplish the following:
Based upon the things you have read and watched on the causes of the Challenger explosion and your own thoughts on what may have contributed it, put yourself in the shoes of the engineering team developing the O-rings for the SRBs. Construct a fault tree analysis of the O-ring construction, keeping in mind the possibilities of temperature changes and other weather considerations.
If you chose the Columbia Crash:
Based on the things you have read and watched on the causes of the Columbia reentry explosion and your own thoughts on what may have contributed to it, put yourself in the shoes of the engineering team developing the foam construction on the main fuel tank of the launcher. Construct a fault tree of the fuel tank foam construction, keeping in mind the possibility of foam coming off during the launch and any other considerations you may deem important such as temperature, weather, or vibration.
From your fault tree, draw conclusions in the form of a one to two page summary about the risks you found, their criticality based upon the risk assessment matrix, and probable ways to mitigate the risks that your fault tree showed. Your summary should include an actual fault tree, showing correct transition gates, and a short narrative of the analysis. If you are unable to get a computer program that will draw the gates correctly, it is OK to hand draw the fault tree out legibly and scan it in for submission. Sometimes it is more important to get the information to the boss quickly as opposed to spending the time finding a computer to build it on. As always, if you need to do more research to accomplish this task, feel free. Just be sure to cite your sources accordingly.
This assignment has two requirements that must be completed. The first is a fault tree presenting the data you selected to analyze (an example is found in the Ericson text). The second is a short narrative to the boss telling them why the items you show in your chart are important and need to be addressed. Both of these must be turned in for this case study.
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