ChallengerCaseStudyHandoutF2006

ChallengerCaseStudyHandoutF2006 - Fall 2006 ENGINEERING...

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Fall 2006 ENGINEERING ETHICS EE 111 The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster Case study from http://ethics.tamu.edu/ethics/shuttle/shuttle1.htm Department of Philosophy and Department of Mechanical Engineering Texas A&M University NSF Grant Number DIR-9012252 Student Handout - Synopsis On January 28, 1986, seven astronauts were killed when the space shuttle they were piloting, the Challenger , exploded just over a minute into flight. The failure of the solid rocket booster O- rings to seat properly allowed hot combustion gases to leak from the side of the booster and burn through the external fuel tank. The failure of the O-ring was attributed to several factors, including faulty design of the solid rocket boosters, insufficient low temperature testing of the O- ring material and the joints that the O-ring sealed, and a lack of communication between different levels of NASA management. Organizations and People Involved NASA Marshall Space Flight Center - in charge of booster rocket development for NASA Larry Mulloy – Solid Rocket Booster Project Manager, NASA MSFC, challenged the engineers' decision not to launch Morton Thiokol – Company contracted by NASA to build the Solid Rocket Booster Alan McDonald - Director of the Solid Rocket Motors Project, Morton Thiokol Bob Lund - Engineering Vice President, Morton Thiokol Robert Ebeling - Engineer who worked under McDonald Roger Boisjoly - Engineer who worked under McDonald Joe Kilminster - Engineer in a management position, Morton Thiokol Jerald Mason - Senior Executive at Morton Thiokol who encouraged Lund to reassess his decision not to launch. Key Dates 1974 - Morton-Thiokol awarded contract to build solid rocket boosters. 1976 - NASA accepts Morton-Thiokol's booster design. 1977 - Morton-Thiokol discovers joint rotation problem. November 1981 - O-ring erosion discovered after second shuttle flight. January 24, 1985 - shuttle flight that exhibited the worst O-ring blow-by. July 1985 - Thiokol orders new steel billets for new field joint design. August 19, 1985 - NASA Level I management briefed on booster problem. January 27, 1986 - night teleconference to discuss effects of cold temperature on booster performance. January 28, 1986 - Challenger explodes 72 seconds after liftoff.
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Background NASA managers were anxious to launch the Challenger for several reasons, including economic considerations, political pressures, and scheduling backlogs. Unforeseen competition from the European Space Agency put NASA in a position where it would have to fly the shuttle dependably on a very ambitious schedule in order to prove the Space Transportation System's cost effectiveness and potential for commercialization. This prompted NASA to schedule a record number of missions in 1986 to make a case for its budget requests. The shuttle mission just prior to the Challenger had been delayed a record number of times due to inclement weather and mechanical factors. NASA wanted to launch the Challenger without any delays so the
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This note was uploaded on 04/03/2008 for the course EE 100 taught by Professor All during the Spring '08 term at Cal Poly.

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ChallengerCaseStudyHandoutF2006 - Fall 2006 ENGINEERING...

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