The Challenger Disaster

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The Challenger Disaster
By: Kathy Neuner & Jeremy Rider

Executive Summary Many factors must be examined to find the underlying reason for the horrible disaster of the space shuttle Challenger. We will cover both the technical causes to the disaster and the communication breakdown with NASA. We will also look at the outside pressure that NASA was receiving from the media, congress and the military. Recommendations for NASA and anyone in the communication field will be given. These recommendations will help to avoid any further problems with communication in any organization. The O-rings failed to properly seal the gap in the joint seal. Failure of the Orings was the ultimate mechanical cause to the explosion of the Challenger.
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If the Orings do not properly seal these gaps it is possible for exhaust gasses to get into the internal structure of the joint field. The extreme temperatures of the exhaust gasses are too high for the internal joint, known as the Tang and Clevis, to handle. The Tang and Clevis are the two main parts of the joint. They are mating sections that are held together with one hundred seventy-seven pins. Without the O-rings, the Tang and Clevis are not able to withstand the extreme pressure of exhaust gasses.


Figure 1. Cross section view of field joint located in the Solid Rocket Booster

Four Technical Problems First let’s look at the four mechanical aspects of the Challengers problems, blow holes, O-Ring erosion, joint rotation, and the response of O-Rings during low temperature. The condition of the primary seal is essential to the successful operation of the rocket booster. Engineers had to make sure that the seal was not damaged, so they increased the pressure of the leak test to above the pressure that the putty could withstand. This was supposed to make sure the O-ring was correctly covering the gap without the help of the putty. Blow holes were tiny tunnel-like holes that were left in the zinc chromate putty of the rocket booster insulation. The putty was supposed to protect the O-rings from the hot exhaust. The holes were a result of pressurized test known as the leak check port. The leak test left engineers worried; they didn’t think that the
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