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A postscript and a lesson from 30 years ago...
2

A postscript and a lesson from 30 years ago...

A postscript and a lesson from 30 years ago...

(OP)
30 Years After Explosion, Challenger Engineer Still Blames Himself

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/01/28/...

****************************************************

Note that I've been to the former Morton Thiokol facility, now ATK, mentioned in the above article in Northern Utah and I have to admit, they have not hidden the items involved. In front of the main office building, where anyone can drive-up and park without having to pass through security, they have what they call their 'Rocket Park' where the company has put on display several pieces of hardware related to the companies pioneering work in solid rocket technology, including a full-size example of a shuttle booster as well as individual sections of said booster where one can readily see the 'O-ring' grooves. And while it's true that there was no explicit mention of the significance of them, any engineer (and perhaps even some laypeople) would have no trouble identifying what they're looking at and what their significance was.

The first time I visited ATK's 'Rocket Park' was while on a 'photo safari' with an old classmate and Army buddy of mine (and retired CIA Deputy Director) who's also a serious amateur photographer. We've done this a couple of times and on this occasion we were covering the Northern plateau states of Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Western South Dakota (I may eventually post some more of our photos from the trip on my 'amateur photographers' thread in the 'Hobbies' forum).



Shuttle Booster on display at ATK's 'Rocket Park' near Promontory Point, Utah taken in October, 2009 (Sony A100).



Another angle of the Shuttle Booster (Sony A100).



A section of the Shuttle Booster's body (that's my buddy Dennis and my old Chevy Blazer) (Sony A100).



Placard describing the section of the Shuttle Booster on display (Sony A100).



And finally a close-up of the infamous 'O-ring' grooves from the Booster section (Sony A100).

John R. Baker, P.E.
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: A postscript and a lesson from 30 years ago...

I read Allan McDonald's book "Truth, Lies, and O-Rings: Inside the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster" which was amazingly interesting. It had a pretty fair bit of engineering discussion relevant to the events, in between the retelling of the events. It's an amazing story. Truly amazing. Terrible. I highly recommend it. I know this event is often discussed in engineering ethics classes in colleges and universities, now. This book covers it, and then some. There are others which are good, too, such as by Richard Feynman, but I had not read his yet. It came highly recommended to me, as well, though.

I read this NPR article last night and found it interesting. I am not a religious man by any means, but that was a very, very heavy statement to read by Eberling:

Quote (Bob Ebeling)

"I think that was one of the mistakes that God made," Ebeling says softly. "He shouldn't have picked me for the job. But next time I talk to him, I'm gonna ask him, 'Why me. You picked a loser.' "

That's a heck of a mental burden.

RE: A postscript and a lesson from 30 years ago...

I was just about to post that same link and saw this thread - what a terribly sad story. I cannot imagine the feeling of helplessness Ebeling must have gone thru.

Those photos are the first I've ever seen of the part in question. I wouldn't pass judgement without seeing the entire assembly but your photo of the o-rings seats make me cringe. 1 or 2" lap on bore seals of that diameter seems cutting things close if any flex on the flange is a potential. But I'm sure there's a lot more involved that isn't apparent from the NPR article and your photos. Thanks for sharing this, makes me want to read up on this and learn more about the episode

[Edit - just saw earlier comment]
Anybody read "Truth, Lies, and O-Rings: Inside the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster" ? Sounds like a good take from one of the project engineers

RE: A postscript and a lesson from 30 years ago...

(OP)
And since the photo I posted shows the 'female' or clevis end of the booster's body section (the 'orange' part in the above diagram) there is no way to tell whether the section ATK choose to put display at their 'Rocket Park' is an example of the old versus the new design. As I said, there was no mention of the Challenger accident in the limited descriptions of the hardware on display so there was no opportunity to make this point or not.

John R. Baker, P.E.
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: A postscript and a lesson from 30 years ago...

I found the photos very interesting.

I worked around many rocket engines, but they were a TOTALLY DIFFERENT "breed" of propulsion. - Mainly with the thrust measurement systems and the dynamics of the very tall test stands which were open steel frame supporting huge fuel and LOX tanks. The loads were all downward until the start of the firing, when they quickly changed when the engines fired. The engine was gimballed and the test firings were from a few seconds to 420 seconds, which ate a lot of fuel. The thrust for the engines was between 180,000 pounds to 1,500,000 pounds depending on the rocket type.

The cryogenics created a maze of insulated stainless steel piping that had many problems with expansion and contraction. Some of the exotic fuels and oxidizers really posed some problems. The strangest one was FLOX (floridated liquid oxgen) that seemed eat almost everything.

Where the solid propellant systems tested "nose up" or "nose down"?

Dick

Engineer and international traveler interested in construction techniques, problems and proper design.

RE: A postscript and a lesson from 30 years ago...

So that's what that stuff was at the Lockheed Missile Test site up in the Santa Cruz mountains. I was told if you breathed the stuff, it would react with the moisture in you lungs, and.....
When they lit off one of their smaller rocket engine tests, it sounded (and felt) like you were standing directly beside one of those "funny car" dragsters - and this was several hundred yards away.

RE: A postscript and a lesson from 30 years ago...

(OP)
From what I've seen, most solid propellent engines are tested lying on their side, in other words, horizontally. Since gravity or position plays absolutely no role whatsoever in the deliver of the fuel, large complicated vertical test stands are not needed. Speaking of ATK, here's a video of a recent test of the proposed booster for NASA's new SLS (Space Launch System), the eventual replacement for the Shuttle:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qn6OvHofcoo

John R. Baker, P.E.
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: A postscript and a lesson from 30 years ago...

I live down the road from the Empire Grade Lockheed place. Almost bought property next to it. I went to a few picnics there since my F-in-Law was a piro guy for Lockheed. I didn't realize they tested motors there! I only heard about things like vibration testing happening there.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: A postscript and a lesson from 30 years ago...

itsmoked, I worked there for five years. Send me a personal e-mail if you want. Great stories. Stuff I can't say here.

RE: A postscript and a lesson from 30 years ago...

Our liquid fueled engines were fired vertically because a huge amount of fuel was pumped and it was necessary to simulate the effects of gravity. The stands were vertical and the exhaust of the engines impinged on a steel flame deflector to deflect the exhaust horizontally and the stands foundations were cantilevered to overhang the braced steel flame deflector below. The flame deflector had a system of steel channels on the back side that carried cooling water the was pumped out through holes in the deflector face to create a continuous film of water on the impingement face.

Even seeing a test of the cooling system without the rocket engine firing was impressive, but it was necessary especially to flush out the retention ponds for the cooling water.

On my first week of work (straight out of college), I saw my first rocket test firing and the engine blew up at Edwards AFB, destroying the test stand and there were globs of melted steel dripping off the concrete foundation. There was a debriefing immediately after the event and I was asked if I saw anything unusual, but since it was my first, I had noting to offer.

It was the best experience (like a 2 year vacation), since I saw so many different things. - I also went to graduate school 3 or 4 nights a week for 2 years at USC in Los Angeles with tuition paid plus mileage and credit for dinner since it was after normal working hours. Somehow designing our tilt up manufuaturing building got a little boring.

Dick

Engineer and international traveler interested in construction techniques, problems and proper design.

RE: A postscript and a lesson from 30 years ago...

Somewhere there's a photo of the Thor-Agena rocket engine being fired at the Santa Cruz Mountain site with the steam plume from the deluge system completely filling the entire canyon below.
Like Dick says, these things are awesome!!

RE: A postscript and a lesson from 30 years ago...

Is this the one you are talking about?




While I was looking for the image you're talking about I found this excellent image of a Titan 2 rocket being launched:



Professional and Structural Engineer (ME, NH)
American Concrete Industries
www.americanconcrete.com

RE: A postscript and a lesson from 30 years ago...

I just went back and visited the test pad for the Thor-Agena at Google Coordinates: 37 deg 07’ 10.4”N and 122 deg 11’ 44.39”W It breaks my heart to see the condition that it’s in.
West of this site is a lake. The small white building on the right side of the lake is where we entertained Navy executives. I designed the deck extension and restrooms for it. I also did the spillway for the lake dam but you can’t see it here. Since this is generally public knowledge now, this is where the Lockheed/Navy bribes occurred and, no I had nothing to do with that.
There's an old landfill under the helipad. Amazing what's in it.

RE: A postscript and a lesson from 30 years ago...

When I visited the Kennedy Space Center in Florida (the day the Atlantis came home for the last time) I walked around the rocket garden, and spent a long time admiring the Titan II engine assembly. It had just been restored when I visited, so extremely shiny. Most of the others were rusty and rotten, so the Titan got all the photo attention. I feel like digging up those pictures, since everyone's been sharing this stuff lately.

STF

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