The Challenger Shuttle Disaster Engineering Essay


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration ( NASA ) is a planetary leader in the field of infinite flight and infinite scientific discipline. NASA as an organisation is sole in footings of mission, vision, aims, magnitude, control, hazard, and complexness. NASA ‘s infinite flight plan is the most complex and hard undertaking in their history. It is good known that the accident of Challenger infinite bird on 28th January 1986 was attributed to organisational failure. The dislocation of Columbia infinite bird in February 2003 points out once more how even minute inside informations play of import functions in complex and high hazard organisations. Many major organisational failures are consequence of hapless determination devising, inauspicious conditions, and hapless premises. This paper focuses on Challenger & A ; Columbia infinite bird catastrophe, and proof behind naming it as an organisational failure. If NASA is unfeignedly believing about cut downing failure, they should see organisational alteration to cut down chance of happening of such bad lucks.


An organisation exists when a group of people work together to accomplish ends ( Daft, 2007 ) . Organizations are all around us and determine our lives in many ways. Organizations can be classified on the footing of range, size, patronage, and nature of services. Even though the work civilization of every organisation is different, the basic rule of operation is same. With rapid globalisation, there is added force per unit area on organisations to surpass each other. The force per unit area on a house is the direct force per unit area on employees to execute. Every single react to this force per unit area otherwise and at times can impact determination doing accomplishments in a hapless mode. Organizational failure can be described as a individual major incident, or concatenation of incidents, ensuing from the action or inactivity of persons associated with the organisation ( Gillespie and Dietz, 2009 ) . Organizational failures are ineluctable, and it can be effect of a individual cause. The outrageousness of failure depends upon figure of causes. The basic grounds for organisational failures are hapless planning, direction, and corporate civilization.

Organizational features of NASA

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration ( NASA ) , an organisation with 18,000 employees and a budget of US $ 15 billion was set up in 1958. It is sole in the footings of size, mission, and motives. The motive factor ranged from winning the SOVIET/US infinite conflict during the 1960 ‘s, to going a leader in all the countries of space travel and infinite scientific discipline at present. NASA is considered to be a closely “ path dependant ” organisation ( Bruggeman, 2002 ) . Path dependance implies to the disposition of an organisation to do determinations based on their history. During 1960 ‘s infinite race between United States and Soviet Union for technological high quality, cost concerns were less of import. During this period the importance of human space travel for a successful infinite plan was realized. There were important budget cuts for NASA by the terminal of the cold war epoch ; even so the focal point was on human space travel. To counter budget cuts, some parts of the shuttle plan were contracted out to private providers ( Hall, 2003 ) .

The cardinal point is that, even today infinite bird is an experimental vehicle. Lessons are still learned from each bird returning to Earth. The official development phase for the infinite bird was from 1980 to 1982. After that period, it was considered operational, but still shuttle applied scientists had beliing sentiments. They considered it to be a developmental aircraft because of invariably altering engineering and incomprehensible jobs that can non be predicted from design. The unexpected jobs continued to happen during shuttle missions, but no catastrophes occurred. Due to budget restraints, direction was non acute on happening the root causes of the job. NASA allowed these proficient defects to go through, as analyses were dearly-won and clip consuming. Even at the providers end, due to incessant production force per unit area, jobs were frequently neglected.

The Challenger Tragedy

On 28 January 1986, around 76 seconds into the mission, the Space Shuttle Challenger was destroyed, killing all seven crew members ( Rogers Commission study, 1986 ) . This happened due to a design defect in bird ‘s solid projectile supporter and decomposition of an O-ring on its right solid projectile supporter ( Lighthall, 1991 ) . The jobs mentioned above were important, but there were many other grounds which contributed to the devastation of Columbia infinite bird.

Components of Shuttle

The Columbia infinite bird, officially called as Space Transportation System ( STS ) , has three major constituents ; the Orbiter, External Tank ( ET ) , and two Solid Rocket Booster ( SRB ) motors as shown in Figure 1.

Orbiter – It is a winged trade that carries spacemans and warheads ( orbiters or infinite station ) into infinite and travel back to land on a track. However, to acquire extra push, two big Solid Rocket Boosters are provided, each attached to the sides of external armored combat vehicle ( shown in Figure 1 ) , as Orbiter entirely does non supply plenty push.

Figure 1: Rival Space Shuttle ( Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster, 2003 )

Components of the Space Shuttle

The three constituents are attached together during bird assembly, whereas the field articulations between the subdivisions contain two no-good O-rings. The intent of O-rings is to make full the field articulations and prevent hot gases from get awaying. The solid projectiles are cheaper and less complicated than liquid- fuel projectile engines. The biggest disadvantage of solid projectile is that it can non be tuned off one time ignited.

External Tank

The intent of external armored combat vehicle is to transport liquid fuel for the three engines located in the aft subdivision of the satellite. The lower two tierce of the armored combat vehicle carries liquid H with the upper one 3rd incorporating liquid O.

Cold Temperature Concern for O-rings

Before the launch of Columbia shuttle, no experimentation was conducted on infinite birds at temperatures below 51 F ( 11 C ) . The air temperature dropped to 18 F ( – 8 C ) in the dark and 36 F ( 2 C ) in the forenoon before the launch. Even Morton Thiokol, the contractor for building and care of shuttle SRB ‘s had deficient informations on public presentation of supporters at lower temperatures. There were some other noteworthy factors which are discussed as follows:

1. The external armored combat vehicle was filled with -423 F ( -253 C ) liquid H and -300 F ( -184 C ) liquid O. The cold zephyr in the dark and forenoon before the bird launch changed air in external armored combat vehicle to super-cooled province and moved it down to the land.

2. It was known that passing of cold zephyr consequences in formation of external armored combat vehicle. This observation was non unusual because it happened during warm temperatures besides. The way of air current was western-northwestern that twenty-four hours, ensuing in super cooled air to skid down straight to the lower part of the right SFB.

3. To mensurate the thickness of ice bed on the external armored combat vehicle, infrared cameras were used by the land staff before every launch. On the twenty-four hours of the launch, a temperature of 8 F ( -13 C ) was recorded at the aft field articulation of the right SRB. The land staff did non go through this critical information to the direction.

Figure 2: Rival Space Shuttle ( Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster, 2003 )

All these factors contributed to the malfunctioning of primary and secondary O-ring causation hot fumes gases at the temperature of 6000 F ( 3315 C ) to get away from the projectile chamber and led to catastrophic incident.

Poor Decision Making

Before the launch of the Challenger infinite bird, a teleconferencing was held between Morton Thiokol, Kennedy Space Center ( KSC ) , and Marshall Space Flight Center ( MSFC ) to make up one’s mind whether it should be launched or non. The applied scientists at Thiokol were non in the favour of the launch because of their apprehensivenesss on the public presentation of O-rings in cold conditions conditions ( Hall, 2003 ) . However, before the launch of Challenger there were many instances of O-ring harm ( Dalal, Fowlkes, and Hoadley, 1989 ) . Due to immense production force per unit area, the Thiokol applied scientists were non able to happen the root causes, and warrant their statements with significant grounds. The graphs presented during the teleconferencing were obscure and confounding. Furthermore in their haste to acquire ready for the conference call, the technology squad mistakenly included slides which were antecedently used for Flight Readiness Review ( FRR ) to claim that O-rings would non be a job ( Tufte, 1997 ) . The direction was non convinced with the instance and decided to establish the bird. The study on the rival infinite shuttle catastrophe provinces, “ After the bird became operational in 1980, the work force and maps of several shuttle safety, dependability, and quality confidence offices were reduced. A safety commission, the Space Shuttle Program Crew Safety Panel, ceased to be at that clip ” ( Leveson, 1995 ) .


Collaboration with Suppliers: NASA needs to alter the conventional thought about sourcing. The Collaborative sourcing attack is different from the traditional attack on sourcing. The traditional sourcing technique is all about squashing the provider to do net income. In collaborative sourcing both purchaser and provider trade a joint vision to accomplish their aims. They should stress on bettering merchandise and line procedures by concurrent technology, combined testing, and root cause technology for mistake determination and rectification ( Helper, MacDuffie, and Sabel, 2009 ) .

Role of Hierarchy at NASA: A grave job with NASA was its complicated corporate civilization. NASA, which was a research institute, had become a platform, which was used by politicians for their publicity. The direction should hold understood that minute inside informations play a important function in research organisation like NASA. Even the determination to establish Challenger was influenced by authorities functionaries. As, President, Regan was scheduled to give his State of the Union Address the following dark in which he intended to talk about astronaut Christa McAuliffe ( Hall, 2003 ) . NASA needs to develop a system for applied scientists to get the better of the bureaucratism and hierarchy. By this manner they wo n’t be asked to support their concerns and intuitions.

Importance to minor jobs: Acceptance of divergences from criterion was one major ground for the rival catastrophe. The nature of work carried out at NASA is really sensitive and hence the specification of tolerance to abnormalcies should be appropriately low. The O-ring job was frequent, but direction persisted with it on the evidences that it does non possess flight safety hazard. If the applied scientists had succeeded in converting the direction to replace the damaged O-rings, loss of life and vehicle could hold been averted. Following stairss are recommended for job analysis:

1. Find the significance and footing of the job.

2. Fix a full cogent evidence action program to rectify the job.

3. All the parametric quantities should be tested against variables like temperature, air current, humidness etc.

4. Importance to Problem Reporting and Corrective Action ( PRACA ) .


The Challenger shuttle catastrophe nowadayss assorted issues that are relevant from technology direction point of view. One of the cardinal points is alteration in position of applied scientists who are now placed at managerial places. It is critical for directors non to overlook their ain technology work experience, or the cognition of their helpers. A batch of times, even directors with technology background are non up to day of the month about the latest promotion in the field of technology. The directors should recognize this while taking any determination on proficient affairs. Another of import facet is the function of moralss in technology direction. The occupation of applied scientist is to plan, and along with it comes the duty that the merchandise or service designed is safe for clients. It is the ethical duty of applied scientists to admit errors and present unchanged informations to the direction. Further, the direction determination can hold a positive consequence or negative impact on organisation ‘s repute.