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  Wind shear contributing to Columbia's demise

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Author Topic:   Wind shear contributing to Columbia's demise

Posts: 284
From: Maryland
Registered: May 2010

posted 02-12-2019 04:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAngel   Click Here to Email SpaceAngel     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
When watching a clip of "When Weather Changed History" (from The Weather Channel) on space shuttle Challenger, it was mentioned that Columbia experienced wind shear, causing insulation from the external tank to break off and fatally strike the orbiter.

Did the Columbia Accident Investigation Board find any evidence of weather being a factor to the disaster?

Robert Pearlman

Posts: 40982
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 02-12-2019 04:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From the first volume of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board's report, a section titled "Wind Shear":
Before a launch, balloons are released to determine the direction and speed of the winds up to 50,000 to 60,000 feet. Various Doppler sounders are also used to get a wind profile, which, for STS-107, was unremarkable and relatively constant at the lower altitudes.

Columbia encountered a wind shear about 57 seconds after launch during the period of maximum dynamic pressure (max-q). As the Shuttle passed through 32,000 feet, it experienced a rapid change in the out-of-plane wind speed of minus 37.7 feet per second over a 1,200-foot altitude range. Immediately after the vehicle flew through this altitude range, its sideslip (beta) angle began to increase in the negative direction, reaching a value of minus 1.75 degrees at 60 seconds.

A negative beta angle means that the wind vector was on the left side of the vehicle, pushing the nose to the right and increasing the aerodynamic force on the External Tank bipod strut attachment. Several studies have indicated that the aerodynamic loads on the External Tank forward attach bipod, and also the interacting aerodynamic loads between the External Tank and the Orbiter, were larger than normal but within design limits.

Later in the report:
Conditions in certain combinations during ascent may also have contributed to the loss of the foam ramp, even if individually they were well within design certification limits. These include a wind shear, associated Solid Rocket Booster and Space Shuttle Main Engine responses, and liquid oxygen sloshing in the External Tank. Each of these conditions, alone, does not appear to have caused the foam loss, but their contribution to the event in combination is unknown.

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