The Challenger disaster made one of the most significant impacts on the US space program. On January 28, 1986, the NASA Space Shuttle orbiter Challenger disintegrated 73 seconds after taking off. This lead to the death of two payload specialists and five NASA astronauts.
If you grew up in the 80's, then you will always remember what you were doing at the time of this tragic incident. It was one of those incidents that made you wonder what went wrong.
How Does A Hydraulic Seal Work?
The cause of the Challenger explosion was mainly attributed to malfunctioning hydraulic or O-ring seals. A hydraulic seal is similar to a gasket that seals the pressure and fluid inside of a hydraulic cylinder. A hydraulic cylinder creates linear force and motion with the use of pressurized hydraulic fluid. One of the ways this device works is by powering industrial machines. Industrial machines can form metals or other materials at a very high force using a small amount of highly pressurized fluid.
A hydraulic seal contains the pressure as the hydraulic fluid flows in the cylinder. The seal is fitted inside of the inner cylinder shaft and sealed against the outer case of it. It is used in a variety of industries like, industrial, machinery and civil engineering.
Why Did The Challenger Disintegrate?
The disintegration started with the failure of the O-ring seal. It was caused by low temperatures that solidified the inner material of the seal. This resulted in the hydraulic seals not properly sealing.
The O-ring seal was located in the right Solid Rocket Booster(SRB). With the failure, a stream of gas was able to break through. It pierced a hole into the wall of the external tank. The dome of liquid that was holding the hydrogen malfunctioned and crashed into the liquid oxygen tank. This resulted in the fuel releasing and causing a massive destructive fire.
The Challenge disaster was a mismanagement failure by NASA. It was something that could have been avoided. The engineering team was aware of an issue with the O-rings, but did not notify management.
The O-ring seal is sealed with aluminum oxide. On this day, the aluminum oxide was having problems keeping the O-rings sealed. If it had kept the them sealed a little longer, the shuttle would have made it to space and escaped the explosion.
The Challenger disaster made Americans lose faith in the space program. It just shows that space shuttles are made up of so many components. Every component has to be functioning for a successful lift off.