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67 votes
Accepted

Was there a backup plan in case the Shuttle toilet malfunctioned?

First let's review the nominal operation of the Shuttle Waste Collection System (WCS). (from Shuttle Crew Operations Manual (SCOM) page 2.25-2) It was divided into two major systems, one for urine ...
Organic Marble's user avatar
53 votes
Accepted

Do rockets, launch vehicles or spacecraft contain a black-box?

Key data for the Columbia accident investigation was provided by recovery of the MADS (Modular Auxiliary Data System) recorder which amazingly survived reentry and was found largely intact. The MADS ...
Organic Marble's user avatar
51 votes

During the Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster of 2003, Why Did The Flight Director Say, "Lock the doors."?

This is indeed part of the procedure that is invoked when a contingency has occurred. It is part of Standard Operation Procedure 2.8 - JSC Contingency Plan, which can be found in the Shuttle Flight ...
Ludo's user avatar
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49 votes
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What were the most impactful non-fatal failures on STS missions?

The failures in this answer will be described at a very high level. A long write-up could be done on any of them. References are provided for further reading. Failures Occurring Prelaunch There were ...
Organic Marble's user avatar
48 votes
Accepted

Will the Falcon Heavy be far enough in 12 seconds to not cause damage?

Not even close. In fact, at 12 seconds in, you're looking at maximum damage to not just the pad itself, but the surrounding area as well. You're going to have tons of debris (most of it burning and ...
Machavity's user avatar
  • 7,905
41 votes
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What does 'Switch SCE to AUX' mean?

It stands for Signal Conditioning Equipment. From Wikipedia The loss of all three fuel cells put the CSM entirely on batteries, which were unable to maintain normal 75-ampere launch loads on the ...
kim holder's user avatar
  • 21.4k
41 votes

Will the James Webb Space Telescope be insured against launch failure?

NASA tends not to insure its missions, nor do any government missions. These missions are one-of-a-kind, and so expensive that the satellite insurance market would have a hard time making it work. ...
PearsonArtPhoto's user avatar
  • 121k
41 votes
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How did pages of Ramon's diary survive the Columbia disaster?

The shuttle did not "burn(t) up". It broke up. In the chaotic environment following the breakup, aerodynamic heating of individual items varied greatly. The main body breakup, referred to as ...
Organic Marble's user avatar
41 votes

Has the cause of a rocket failure ever been mis-identified, such that another launch failed due to the same problem?

The root cause of External Tank foam shedding, which initiated the chain of events leading to the destruction of the Columbia orbiter on re-entry during the STS-107 mission, was initially mis-...
Organic Marble's user avatar
38 votes
Accepted

Why was AMOS-6 mounted on the rocket for a test fire?

The static test wants to be done relatively close to launch day, to minimize the likelihood of anything happening to the engines between the test and the launch. The more conservative procedure is ...
Russell Borogove's user avatar
35 votes

Do the SpaceX Falcon-9 rockets use foam insulation similar to the Space Shuttle? Is it still a potential problem?

The Space Shuttle used liquid hydrogen, contained in the external tank along with liquid oxygen. While the Falcon rockets do use liquid oxygen, they do not use liquid hydrogen. Keeping the liquid ...
David Hammen's user avatar
34 votes
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Could Ingenuity survive if Perseverance failed?

No. Perseverance is the communications relay for Ingenuity. Ingenuity uses essentially ZigBee to communicate, the same protocol that possibly your smart bulbs use. ZigBee has a range of about 300m ...
Jörg W Mittag's user avatar
33 votes

Have any satellites been lost or damaged on their way to the launch site (ground/sea transport)?

The high-gain antenna deployment failure that caused Galileo to only be able to return data at a tiny fraction of the design rate was caused by vibration resulting from its being shipped cross-country ...
Organic Marble's user avatar
33 votes
Accepted

Challenger hypothetical - what if the SRB breach faced outboard?

Do we get to pick our assumptions? I don't see how to answer this otherwise. I'll assume the hole kept growing at a "slow rate" and the booster didn't come apart. (If the booster came apart, the ...
Organic Marble's user avatar
33 votes
Accepted

What is a "Major Component Failure" referred to in news reports about the unsuccessful Space Launch System core stage test firing?

tl;dr Each engine reports a self-test status to the vehicle it's attached to. "MCF" is one of the possible statuses and indicates that the engine controller has detected a serious - but not ...
Organic Marble's user avatar
33 votes

Why was Space X's Starship blown up?

Why not let it fall in one piece, so it will be more intact and thus easier to investigate as to what went wrong? There were designated areas where it was okay for Super Heavy and Starship to ...
Erin Anne's user avatar
  • 11.8k
32 votes
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What happened to the Apollo 1 rocket?

This is one case where Wikipedia says it all: Apollo 1's (AS-204) Saturn IB rocket was taken down from Launch Complex 34, later reassembled at Launch complex 37B and used to launch Apollo 5, an ...
Oscar Lanzi's user avatar
  • 8,525
32 votes
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What (if anything) could have caused all three shuttle main engines to stop at the same time?

There were a few common cause, credible failures. Loss of inlet pressure to the engines due to a leak in the External Tank or failure of the tank pressurization system. (This loss of pressure is ...
Organic Marble's user avatar
31 votes
Accepted

Was the LES used in the MS-10 abort?

Yes, the launch escape system was used, contrary to earlier reports based on assumptions and ignorance of Soyuz hardware. However, it was not the tower that we are familiar with on Mercury and Apollo ...
Ghedipunk's user avatar
  • 1,167
31 votes
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Is the failure to separate Starship from the Super Heavy booster a "dumb failure" and does it tell something about the project reliability?

It is far too early to say for sure exactly what happened during the Starship launch. And, to my knowledge, SpaceX have not provided any explanation so far. That said it is highly likely that SpaceX ...
Slarty's user avatar
  • 9,680
30 votes
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Challenger disaster: how full was the external tank at the time of destruction?

I did a crude spreadsheet sim using the Rogers Commission report to get throttle times, to wit: Throttle down to 94% at 24 seconds Throttle down to 65% at 42 seconds Throttle up to 104% at 65 seconds ...
Organic Marble's user avatar
30 votes

Do rockets, launch vehicles or spacecraft contain a black-box?

While there is onboard recording, the significant difference between launches of space craft and those of aircraft is the extensive realtime telemetry used in rocket launches. Every piece of data ...
Rory Alsop's user avatar
  • 13.6k
30 votes
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Has the cause of a rocket failure ever been mis-identified, such that another launch failed due to the same problem?

The Taurus XL launches of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory and the Glory satellites in 2009 and 2011 both failed due to fairing separation problems. Orbital spent two years after the OCO launch working ...
Christopher James Huff's user avatar
29 votes
Accepted

Have any astronauts/cosmonauts died in space?

The only casualties in space (above the Kármán line) are the crew of Soyuz 11 who were still in orbit when they died but about to reenter the atmosphere. All other casualties like Komarov in Soyuz 1 ...
DarkDust's user avatar
  • 12.5k
27 votes

During the Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster of 2003, Why Did The Flight Director Say, "Lock the doors."?

Does he mean lock the doors in the NASA building, in order to begin some internal investigation, and nobody is allowed to leave, as a matter of policy? Yes, this. It's part of a standard procedure to ...
pericynthion's user avatar
  • 10.1k
26 votes

Challenger disaster: how full was the external tank at the time of destruction?

The breakup of Challenger occurred about 73 seconds into flight. Main engine cutoff normally occurs about 510 seconds into flight, implying that about 86% of the fuel would be remaining. (Many sources ...
Russell Borogove's user avatar
26 votes
Accepted

How close was the ISS to running out of supplies after the failure of CRS-7?

Hobbes' answer to How long can a 2 person crew survive on ISS totally cut from Earth? has links to articles that include NASA press releases from around that time. In Progress Failure Puts Burden on ...
Erin Anne's user avatar
  • 11.8k
25 votes
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How did the attitude system of the uncrewed Soyuz 7K-OK No.1 fail on the launch pad in 1966, killing ground staff as LES was activated?

Rocket guidance systems generally use a fixed inertial platform based on gyroscopes to determine their orientation in space; an accelerometer solution would be useless to determine orientation (though ...
Russell Borogove's user avatar
25 votes

How did STS-27 survive reentry after losing a thermal tile?

A copy of the post-flight mission report is available here. The relevant portion states The TPS sustained a significant amount of debris hits from the right-hand chine area aft to the right-hand wing....
Organic Marble's user avatar
23 votes
Accepted

How does “space weather” cause reaction wheel failure?

Ceramic bearings are a relatively new concept. They were a hot research topic in the late 1970s and didn't become commercially available until the mid 1990s. The Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic ...
David Hammen's user avatar

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