Columbia Questions

A few random questions suggested by correlation that may or may not lead anywhere:

  • What was the temperature at launch?
  • How do the mechanical properties of the foam insulation change with temperature? In particular, is there a glass transition temperature anywhere near freezing. I understand that the inside surface of the insulation is at between 2 and 50 degrees kelvin (-400 to -325 F), but the outside skin is most responsible for structural integrity at speed.
  • Do the tiles have any sensitivity to below freezing temperatures?
  • Columbia has been reported to have had trouble with heat on re-entry in the past. Is there any correlation with tile damage or launch temperature?
  • Insulation has flaked off before. What is the correlation with launch temperature?

I’ve read Tufte’s explanation of the charts and graphs that lead to the Challenger launch decision and his rerendering of all the data. The more complete renderings show a pretty inescapable conclusion that launching was not wise. I’d like to see similar graphs of insulation damage, tile damage, and heat troubles vs. launch temperature. I hope that these graphs don’t show a similar correlation that would lead to a no launch decision. But given that this year has been unseasonably cold in Florida I’m not sure that I can dismiss it.

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