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Space Shuttle Case Studies: Challenger and Columbia

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Aerospace Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1094.1 - 24.1094.17



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Paper Authors


Scott L. Post Bradley University

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Scott Post received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University. He is currently an Associate Professor at Bradley University in Peoria, IL. He has previously worked as an Assistant Professor at Michigan Technological University. He has also been a summer Faculty Fellow at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, and a Visiting Erskine Fellow at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand.

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Space Shuttle Case Studies: Challenger and ColumbiaAbstractThe two Space Shuttle tragedies, Challenger and Columbia, have led to many papers on casesstudies on engineering ethics. The Challenger disaster in particular is often discussed due to theinfamous teleconference that took place the night before the launch in which some engineerstried to postpone the launch. However, the space shuttle program itself is worthy of study as itrelates to the engineering design process, and the details of the Challenger and Columbiadisasters are worthy of discussion as they relate to a variety of sub-disciplines, including materialscience, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and heat transfer. This paper summarizes the majortechnical findings of the Rogers Commission and the Columbia Accident Investigation Board(CAIB). It also includes additional information about the foam shedding from the external fueltank that became public after the publication of the CAIB report. An overview of the history ofthe space shuttle program, going back to the end of the Apollo program, is presented, includingsome of the design compromises that were made in order to get political support for the spaceshuttle program. A detailed bibliography is given that will aid instructors in finding additionalmaterial they can tailor to their particular class needs.

Post, S. L. (2014, June), Space Shuttle Case Studies: Challenger and Columbia Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23027

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