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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 ...
54 votes
Accepted

What would NASA have done if they knew Columbia was catastrophically damaged?

The answers to all your questions are described at length in section 6.4 (page 173) "Possibility of Rescue or Repair" of the CAIB Report. Appendix D-13 "STS-107 In-flight Options Assessment" is a ...
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 ...
50 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 ...
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47 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 ...
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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. ...
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40 votes
Accepted

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 ...
39 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 ...
39 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 ...
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 ...
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34 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 ...
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 ...
32 votes
Accepted

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 ...
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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 ...
32 votes
Accepted

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 ...
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 ...
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30 votes
Accepted

Is SpaceX the only launch service provider who can attempt another launch the next day after a scrub?

This mainly depends on the cause of the scrub, it seems. I went back through Ariane 5 launches. When a scrub was caused by a technical problem, it'd take several days or weeks to make another attempt....
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30 votes
Accepted

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 ...
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 ...
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30 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 ...
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 ...
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28 votes
Accepted

How hard is it on the crew to go through the 14+ g's of a launchpad abort of the Soyuz, or the Falcon system?

14G sounds like a lot. To put it in context: the acceleration you can endure depends on the force vector. The position in which we can withstand G-forces best is forward (using the directions from ...
  • 122k
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 ...
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26 votes
Accepted

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 ...
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 ...
25 votes
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Is there a "procedural shift" meaning to the statement "we have cleared the tower"

Yes, there is a procedural change, at least with NASA launches. In NASA, launches are controlled by the Launch Control Center (LCC) until the rocket clears the tower, and then are handed over to the ...
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25 votes

Has any spacecraft had a way for the crew to escape during reentry?

The Space Shuttle Orbiter had a flight mode whereby, at or below ~50,000 feet of altitude during the reentry (or, in the event of an ascent abort, the gliding, unpowered phase of flight), the ...
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24 votes
Accepted

What went wrong with the CRS-7 launch?

Update 7/20/2015 via Elon Musk's Conference Call, compiled by /r/spacex and twitter sources Preliminary conclusion is that a COPV (helium container) strut in the CRS-7 second stage failed at 3....
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 ...
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23 votes
Accepted

Which regulatory agency (if any) is in charge of investigating civilian rocket anomalies?

FAA again. They license all commercial launches, and are responsible for investigating. The FAA has officially grounded New Shepard, pending review. They will also oversee the investigation. ...
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