[LINK] Finally up to date on the Shuttle

Stilgherrian contour@prussia.net
Mon, 3 Feb 2003 08:20:04 +1100

Just on the O-ring point...

At 07:47 +1100 3/2/03, Jan Whitaker wrote:
>Re the O-rings, I know a guy here who did a complete analysis of the 
>chain of events on that for future risk management preparation. 
>Actually, Ann, certain people knew 100% that the O-rings weren't 
>engineered to these conditions.  The problem was that the top brass 
>ignored the engineering advice -- but I can't remember the reason 
>for ignoring it -- there was one.

The decision to "not mention" to O-ring problem wasn't made by NASA 
but by the contracting firm that produced the solid-fuel boosters. 
(From memory it was General Dynamics, but don't quote me on that.) 
The engineers within the company were aware of and worried about the 
problem because of the low air temperature at Challenger's launch, 
and they wanted to scrub the launch on that basis.

However the company in question had previously had reliability 
problems with the solid-fuel ballistic missiles they were also 
producing (Minuteman?), and feared that a reliability problem with 
their shuttle boosters too would screw their chances of further 
lucrative missile contracts. So management "make a  management 
decision" to not pass on the engineers' concerns.

And on this point...

>I'm also not sure that it's a 'yank' problem, either.  You gotta 
>admit that the US space program is one of the most highly engineered 
>things ever done.  It just isn't perfect.  Not much is.  The public 
>just doesn't appreciate how high risk those flights have always been.

Agreed thoroughly. There have been two shuttles lost since they were 
first introduced. Isn't that actually within the expected loss rate?


Stilgherrian <contour@prussia.net>
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