As the Final Space Shuttles Launched

... AIAA Members were witnesses to history

As NASA's space shuttle program neared its end during 2010-2011, the Institute, along with AIAA's History Technical Committee, endeavored to capture as many of our members' shuttle program experiences and insights as possible, in an effort to help define this historic era in human spaceflight for years to come. Whether you drew up the first blueprints, or saw the shuttle through every launch, we asked to hear from you. With the space shuttle program over, your stories, and associated images, will be shared with the world via this "Final Launches" page.

Also, watch the time-lapse video (as published on YouTube) that captured the whole process of getting a shuttle ready for launch, in this one-of-a-kind, four-minute chronicle of Discovery’s trip from the Orbiter Processing Facility to the pad, beginning with the "rollover" to the Vehicle Assembly Building on 22 February 2010 and ending with the STS-131 launch on 5 April 2010. Astronaut Alan Poindexter was looking for a different way to document Discovery's next-to-last flight, something that had never been done. So he turned to a couple of friends—Scott Andrews, a photographer and technical advisor to Canon who has shot every shuttle launch but two, and Stan Jirman, a software engineer for Apple. They came up with the winning suggestion: What about a time-lapse video that captured the whole process of getting a shuttle ready for launch?

Watch the Video

 AIAA Member Shuttle Stories (and Papers)
Ben Sarao

Witness to the Final Launch
(Submitted 9 July 2011)
By: Ben Sarao
AIAA Senior Member, AIAA History Technical Committee)





8 July 2011, 7 a.m. EDT, Waiting for the STS-135 Launch8 July 2011, 10 a.m. EDT, Wating for the STS-135 Launch8 July 2011, 11:29 a.m. EDT, Lift Off of the STS-135 Mission 8 July 2011, Up and Away, moments after lift off of Space Shuttle Atlantis on the STS-135 mission

At 11:26AM EST on July 8th, 2011, the final launch of the NASA Space Transportation System program, Atlantis Mission STS-135, was scheduled to take place. The city of Titusville, Florida expected over a million people to witness this last launch. Many people arrived days in advance and camped along the coastline. People from across the nation and around the world came to view this epic launch.

My interest in attending this final launch event was two fold. Primarily, I wanted to document the people who were attending this event to find out to why they were there. Second, I wanted to document the launch of the final launch of the space shuttle in the same manner how the general public would witness the launch.

I arrived at Space View Park in Titusville, Florida at 2:30 AM on the morning of the launch. The park has a small peninsula that juts-out into the Indian River. The shoreline of the park was covered in small tents leaving little room for anyone to enter. I made my way two blocks South of Space View Park to a costal site with a smaller tent city that still had a small open patch of high ground.

It had rained earlier in the night and threatening thunderstorms could be seen across the Indian River looming over the Kennedy Space Center. People were watching their iPhones for the latest weather information and to check the status of the launch on the NASA website. During the course of the night and into the early morning, people discussed whether or not they would stay a few more days if the launch were to be canceled because of the weather.

There were a number of “first time” visitors who came great distances to witness the launch. There were also a number of former NASA and space company employee’s who wanted to be at the launch to reminisce about the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs. Many people spoke about their interest in the space program and their disappointment that there was not a manned space program ready to take the place of the space shuttle. The general sentiment was that this was the end of the era of the manned USA space program. They wanted to be there at the end.

With the morning, the storm clouds passed in a fast moving air stream above KSC the launch area. If the winds did not calm down, the launch might still be canceled. There was a heighten sense of anticipation of whether or not the launch would be scrubbed. Most people doubted that the launch would happen but as patches of blue appeared in the sky, it appeared that launch might take place.

By mid-morning, there were still clouds overhead and some doubts still lingered on as to whether the launch would take place. By 9:00AM, there was major influx of people arriving to view the launch. The people who had arrived earlier in the night seemed to share a bonded interest in the space program that the later group of people who were just arriving did not seem possess.

By 10:00AM, there were still some doubts that the space shuttle would launch. Around 10:50AM, the news quietly flowed through the crowd that the launch would proceed as scheduled. At nine minutes to launch time, the clock to launch began. The countdown was briefly stopped due to a technical issue and most everybody in the crowd wondered if the countdown would continue. When it did, there was a heightened sense of anticipation. The space shuttle was actually going to launch and Atlantis did so magnificently at 11:29 AM.

Arnold D. Aldrich

Memorable Moments
(Submitted 5 February 2011)
By: Arnold D. Aldrich

Arnie_AldrichFormer NASA Director, National Space Transportation System (Space Shuttle Program) and Associate Administrator for Space Systems Development

As the Space Shuttle flights wind down, I look back on a tremendous endeavor which has taken the Nation and the world-wide space faring community from a pioneering era in human space flight to one where people from numerous disciplines and nations now live and work in space. The Space Shuttle’s crowning achievement has been the role for which it was originally conceived - the assembly of the 1 million plus pound International Space Station.

In addition, the Space Shuttle has launched government, commercial, military and national security satellites; retrieved and repaired satellites on-orbit; returned orbiting satellites and extensive other cargo to Earth; supported innumerable scientific investigations in space; flown entire scientific laboratories in its cargo bay and evolved, demonstrated and refined exceptional human capabilities for extra-vehicular assembly, maintenance and repair in the space environment. Along the way, a robust international partnership and space community has evolved, setting the stage for broad international collaboration in future world-wide space endeavors.

The Space Shuttle is a marvelous system, far more technologically complex than is generally understood, with extensive redundancies to assure its success. I had the unforgettable opportunity to participate broadly in Space Shuttle development and its early flights. Highlights included serving as manager of the Orbiter Avionics Systems Office where I oversaw the development of the then highly advanced multi fault-tolerant Space Shuttle avionics and flight software systems. Subsequently, as Orbiter Project manager, I led Orbiter activities during 15 early Space Shuttle flights as well as the production of the orbiters Discovery and Atlantis.

Following the tragic Challenger accident, I was appointed Director of the Space Shuttle program. In addition to leading the program return to flight efforts, I instigated a program-wide review of all Space Shuttle systems , not just those directly implicated in the accident, a process I had witnessed George Low follow after the Apollo 1 fire. This resulted in my approval of over 400 safety related changes to the Space Shuttle vehicle, flight software and ground support systems. A number of these changes dealt with limitations/deficiencies which had been recognized during Space Shuttle development and had been waived as acceptable for early Shuttle flights with the intent to correct them at some later time. Many others were the result of experience gained during the first 25 flights of the Space Shuttle system. Also in this process, every one of the extensive Space Shuttle program Failure Mode and Effects Analyses were re-analyzed and re-base lined.

September 29, 1988 became one of the most memorable days of my lengthy aerospace career when Discovery lifted off on STS-26, 32 months after Challenger. This was the first of 87 continuously successful Space Shuttle flights over the next 14 years.

Today, Space Shuttle retirement looms as the Nation envisions new space initiatives for which the Shuttle was never designed or is not cost effective. These include re-invigorated human space exploration beyond low Earth orbit, reducing the cost of on-orbit space activity and enabling commercial space ventures and utilization. Never the less, over the past 30 years the Space Shuttle has led extensive progress in human space flight and has contributed significantly to setting the stage for even greater accomplishments in the years to come.

Robert L. Crippen

Memorable Moments
(Submitted March 2010)
By: Robert L. Crippen
Retired U.S. Navy Captain, former NASA Astronaut, and former AIAA president

Bob_Crippen_Credit_NASAI had many memorable moments in the Space Shuttle Program from early design, to Approach & Landing Test, to orbital flight to the Challenger accident, to participation in management at NASA & Thiokol. However, my most memorable experience has to be flying the first orbital flight aboard Columbia with John Young. It was an event that we had worked toward for many years and to have it actually happen on April 12, 1981 will be with me forever. The flight was a great success. I savored every moment from ascent to orbit and then reentry. Having a chance to enjoy zero g and view our spaceship Earth from orbit are something I wish everyone had the opportunity to experience.

It will be a long time before there is another space vehicle as capable as the Space Shuttle.

Dr. Richard R. Fisher

Dr. Richard R. Fisher's Space Shuttle Story
(Submitted 2 September 2011)
By: Dr. Richard R. Fisher
Senior AIAA Senior Member

Richard-Fisher-Pic1-sv"SPARTAN" stands for "Shuttle Pointed Autonomous Research Tool for Astronomy”. This system was carried in the cargo bay to be deployed with scientific payloads de by the Shuttle flight crews. The SPARTAN 201 missions employed a 3,000-pound spacecraft and carried two instruments for investigation of the heating of the solar corona and acceleration of the solar wind. The payload consisted of the Ultra-violet Coronal Spectrometer (UVCS) and the White Light Coronagraph (WLC) Together they provided a powerful diagnostic package for remotely sensing the physical properties of the star’s envelope and its interface with the solar system.

I in 1986 I became the PI for the WLC which was developed at the High Altitude Observatory, a division of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder Colorado. The WLC portion of the project transferred to GSFC at the time I moved to the center in 1991. The SPARTAN concept offered US scientific researchers a rapid path into space, providing a flight opportunity for low earth orbit experimentation with duration of days, a considerable advantage over sounding rockets.

Richard-Fisher-Pic2This reusable satellite and payload system was flown five times between 1993-1998 on the STS-56, STS-64, STS- 69,STS-87 and STS-95 missions, validating the concept of rapid access to space for science via the Shuttle program. While providing unique scientific results and also demonstrating the value of the instrumentation technology for use in future scientific missions.

After the final flight, the SPARTAN 201 spacecraft with the two instruments was transferred to the National Air and Space Museum where it now hangs from the ceiling of the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center, at Dulles International Airport near Washington, DC.

As a scientific, technological development, and educational tool the SPARTAN program was and extremely rewarding, and provided to be of high value to the nation’s scientific research community.

Phil Spampinato

Phil Spampinato's Space Shuttle Story
(Submitted 30 August 2011)
By: Phil Spampinato
Director, Government Business Development, ILC Dover and AIAA Senior Member

For those of us whose careers spanned the Shuttle era, there are many memorable moments. One of the most memorable to me was watching the Challenger explosion. I work for ILC Dover, and we make space suits. In the mid-80’s, we regularly made suit components for specific crew members. We also conducted individual glove fit checks. So we knew the crew personally. I vividly remember gathering in the ILC test lab with about 50 others to watch the launch. The lab had a large TV mounted high on a stand so we had a good view. Then it exploded. Silence filled the room. We watched in horror and confusion. We waited to hear news, desperately wanting it to be good news, hoping for a miracle, fearing the worst.

There have been many inspirational moments during the Shuttle era. We have felt the exhilaration of helping achieve tremendous successes. Perhaps what makes the high points so high is the depths from which we have come.

J. Keith Sowell

J. Keith Sowell's Space Shuttle Story
(Submitted 16 August 2011)
By: J. Keith Sowell
AIAA History Technical Committee Member
AIAA-HTC Web Sub-Committee Chairman/Webmaster
AIAA Southwest Texas Chapter Secretary/Webmaster

Keith_SowellWhen I was in the U.S. Air Force stationed at England AFB in Alexandria, Louisiana USA, I was a member of the Transient Alert squadron who serviced aircraft who made stop overs for fuel and rest. During my two (2) years with Transient Alert (1977-79), I personally met all of the original Shuttle Astronauts who came in for a stopover and fuel on their NASA T-38 Aircraft during training missions. My favorite Astronaut, who I met on several occasions, was Guy Blueford the first Black Astronaut to fly in space and on the Space Shuttle.

atlantis-nov-1995After being stationed at England AFB I was sent to England and stationed at RAF Upper Heyford. I ended up being a member of the Crash Recovery Team which was part of the Repair and Reclamation/Heavy Maintenance Flight. As a Crash Recovery Specialist and Shop Safety and Training NCO I personally trained everyone on the team about the Space Shuttle landing and recovery techniques since we were designated as an alternative Shuttle Emergency Landing Site. It was our job to recover the Shuttle in case it had to make an emergency landing at our facility during takeoff or landing. I was stationed at RAF Upper Heyford during 1979-82 and the first Shuttle was launched on 12 April 1981, and returned to Earth on 14 April 1981. We were at the end of the runway waiting in case we had to act!

I personally attended the launch of Shuttle Atlantis STS-74, on November 12, 1995 at 7:30 AM, at Kennedy Space Center when I was attending college at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. ERAU at Daytona has 6 Shuttle Astronauts as Alumni. I am a proud Alumni of ERAU having graduated with a BS degree in Aeronautics.

Clay Hunt

Clay Hunt's Space Shuttle Story
(Submitted 16 August 2011)
By: Clay Hunt
Orbital Sciences Corporation and an AIAA member

Hunt_family_sv Atlantis_Blasts_Off_sv

My father woke me up one early April morning in 1981 (I was 7) to watch Columbia blast off and took me to a Discovery launch in Florida when I was a teenager. I wanted to provide my wife and children with the same experience. We were there to see Atlantis blast off on that beautiful July morning. It was electrifying.

Tom Stagliano

Tom Stagliano's Space Shuttle Story – Remembering Challenger, Astronaut Ron McNair
(Submitted 15 August 2011)
By: Tom Stagliano
Engineering Manager, ITT AES, and an AIAA senior member

Challenger_Crew_sv(This is a story Mr. Stagliano sent to some college friends on the 25th anniversary of the loss of the Challenger. Astronaut Ron McNair was one of his dorm mates, freshman year, when he was an exchange student at MIT.) "But I wouldn’t have become an astronaut — or the head of NASA — had it not been for Ronald E. McNair," said Dr. Bolden. “It was Ron who inspired me to submit my application to the space program,” Bolden said in a phone interview last month. Yes, Ron could inspire people. It was January 1970, when I, a freshman at MIT, met my new room mate, Ron McNair. Ron was a visiting physics student, a Junior, from North Carolina A&T State University who grew up in South Carolina. MIT sort of grabbed Ron by the short hairs and truly made him a student of Physics. I can still hear Ron, even today: "F*** It! F*** the World, F*** It..........." Yep, Ron had just taken another Physics exam and was returning to our dorm room to unwind."Keep your head down Tom", Ron McNair the Brown-Belt Karate expert would say, as he would embark upon a 45+ minute routine with fists and kicks flying over my head as I would be studying at my desk. He was a natural leader. Always a story to tell and always a lesson in that story. Soon our dorm room became an alternate meeting place for the Black Student Union. People sitting cross-legged in our room, just listening to Ron.

During the turbulent Spring of 1970 as everything culminated with Kent State, there were various riots around Boston. In one particularly violent one in Harvard Square, our dorm room became a triage center. People were coming to be inspired by Ron, and I was assisting in bandaging them up as fast as they came in. It was a transition year for me. Going from a teenager towards being an adult, and Ron was one who assisted me on that journey.

When I became a graduate student in the Aero Astro department at MIT in 1973, I was pleased to bump into Ron in the hallways. He was a PhD student in the department and a Black Belt in Karate.

"Ron, what are you studying?" I said.

"I'm studying physics and lasers."

Ron_McNair_svOh, I can just imagine his lab mates after Ron took an exam. I would see Ron around campus, many times teaching Karate. He always had a good word for an old room mate. So, it wasn't too strange, when on January 28, 1986 I stayed in my apartment in Los Angeles. Not going to Northrop to work on the B-2A bomber. No, there were other things to do, and I could watch the Challenger launch on TV. With TV on and working on some computer program, I heard the sound of the announcers voices. Then the phone rang and Jan was telling me to watch, really watch the TV. "Huh"?, I said. I had seen Ron and the other six astronauts enter the Shuttle and wave to all of us. It was supposed to be routine after that. I was working at my desk. But it wasn't so routine. And one of our MIT professors led the accident investigation and it became obvious that we had all taken the Space Shuttle as a little too routine. Seven souls plunged into the icy Atlantic that day. Many will remember Christa McAuliffe, school teacher morphed to teaching astronaut. Others of us will remember those we knew as children, siblings, parents, colleagues or as a college room mate.

Space, the Final Frontier, is a risky and very challenging environment. We must not forgot those seven, nor the seven from the Colombia, nor the three from Apollo, and we must press on for the future.

Evan McCollum

Evan McCollum's Space Shuttle Story
(Submitted 15 August 2011)
By: Evan McCollum
Communications, Lockheed Martin Corporation, AIAA Member
(Worked on the external tank program at NASA's Michoud Facility in New Orleans for eight years in the early part of the shuttle program)

Riding a plume of fire more than 300 feet long, the space shuttle Atlantis soared into the sky July 8 and was swallowed in the clouds about 30 seconds later. It was the 135th and final mission of this amazing space machine that earned well deserved respect and admiration for those who created and operated it.

My wife, Jeanne, and I were there at the Kennedy Space Center to witness the first space shuttle launch, and we were there to witness the final launch 30 years later. As Public Relations manager for then Martin Marietta’s operations at NASA’s Michoud Facility in New Orleans for eight years in the 80s, my job called for me to represent the company at NASA’s press site, working with media who were there to cover these historic launches. About a month before the first launch, my wife’s sister, Pat, called. She was the PR director for Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco at the time, so we occasionally talked shop about the PR business.

“This launch is really a historic event, isn’t it?” Pat asked.

“Absolutely,” I responded.

“Well, I have to be there to see it,” she said.

So she flew to Florida. The day before the launch, Pat and Jeanne took a bus tour of KSC which stopped immediately adjacent to launch pad 39A on which Columbia was perched with its external tank and solid rocket boosters.

That night, Pat recounted her experience. “When we got off the bus, no one said a word. We all just stood there looking up at the shuttle on the launch pad and there was not a dry eye in the crowd. It was an incredible experience. I think it was because we were feeling a mixture of pride, patriotism, and awe as we looked at this amazing machine that represented the technological prowess of our country.”

“It was magnificent,” Jeanne added.

In fact, Pat was so inspired that a year later she made a major career change and has been involved in space related media since then.

The space shuttle has inspired similar feelings in millions. There were lots of teary eyes, waving flags, shuttle shirts worn as badges of honor, and other expressions of pride by the hundreds of thousands in Florida who gathered from across the country and, indeed, the world, to witness the launch.

I ‘m proud to have played a tiny role in the shuttle program and am honored to work with people at Lockheed Martin who built the external tank and numerous other shuttle systems, trained astronauts, and built solar panels and other key components of the International Space Station, and the Hubble Space Telescope and dozens of spacecraft, instruments, and other payloads the shuttle carried to orbit.

Have you seen the Russian immigrant comedian Yakov Smirnoff’s routine? His signature phrase demonstrates his love for his adopted country, the U.S.: “What a country!” What a country, indeed. And to echo that sentiment with reference to the space shuttle, “What a machine!”

Joseph A Gherlone, Jr

Joseph A Gherlone, Jr.'s Space Shuttle Story
(Submitted 12 July 2011)
By: Joseph A Gherlone, Jr
AIAA Senior Member

I never worked on the shuttle program, but it seems like I have never been far away from it. I remember excitedly and after what seemed like a long delay watching the first launch on TV while I was still in high school. In college, working road construction during a semester off, I remember our entire crew jumping in the truck to listen to the radio when Challenger was lost on launch. As I approached the end of my Navy career, I remember getting the call from the NAVSPACE Watch Officer when I was the Alternate Space Control Center Crew Commander on call, informing me that Columbia had broken up on reentry and asking what we should do. All I could do was tell him to have the Naval Space Surveillance System techs prepare for the data retrieval call.

And finally a very recent memory, I just watched the last launch on TV with my son, who just graduated high school. Hope he'll be able to follow a new manned spaceflight system soon, and for at least as long as I did the Shuttle.

Alan I. Kirschbaum

Alan I. Kirschbaum's Space Shuttle Story
(Submitted 10 July 2011)
By: Alan I. Kirschbaum, USAF, Retired
AIAA Associate Fellow
Systems Engineering Consultant

STS-44_DSP_deployment_svAs a young Captain in 1976, the Air Force ordered me to the ballistic missile launch warning satellite engineering center, Los Angeles. The warning satellite system first achieved operational status in 1972, and by 1976, our program worked busily to develop performance improvement modifications. In 1977, shortly after arriving in Los Angeles, the space shuttle orbiter “approach and landing test” sequence began in the Mohave Desert, 100 miles away. Though I obtained viewing passes to see the Enterprise free-flight glide tests, the incidental nature of my involvement and the press of other business prevented me from taking time off to view the glide test in person. However, the next year, in 1978, President Carter signed a National Space Policy (PD/NSC-37) dictating that our satellites move off of the Titan III/IV launch vehicle and on to the shuttle. I suddenly became critically interested in the Space Transportation System. The shuttle provided plenty of mass margin for our, soon to be, 1600+ kilogram satellite, even allowing for a deployment cradle and the 2 upper stage burns that would carry the satellite from the orbiter to geosynchronous orbit. Man-rating our bird and accommodating shuttle abort horizontal landing loads were different matters altogether. Additionally, the shuttle’s operational concept called for vehicle turnaround every 2 weeks, a rate that severely impacted our satellite payload integration schedule. The operational, structural, and safety criteria required a complete redesign and an unbudgeted one at that. When our team estimated the cost impact of the changes, the program manager recognized that shuttle compatibility represented a new, very expensive, and unfunded requirement. The Air Force adjusted our cost baseline accordingly, and we pressed ahead with the re-design. As it happened, only one of our missile early warning satellites ever deployed from the space shuttle. Our satellite (DSP-16) launched aboard space shuttle mission STS-44. Surprisingly, an Air Force assignment to the Florida Space Coast allowed me to witness the launch of STS-44 in November, 1991—a full 13 years after setting in motion the shuttle compatibility program. Oh, what a sight to behold as the satellite gently separated from the Atlantis orbiter payload bay!

Richard C. Orth, Jr.

Richard C. Orth, Jr.'s Favorite Space Shuttle Memory
(Submitted 9 July 2011)
By: Richard C. Orth, Jr.
AIAA Associate Fellow

My most pleasant shuttle memory was when, as serving as the AIAA Administrator of Institute Development, I had the honor and privilege to organize the ATAA trip tp KFC for the first shuttle launch. We had about 40 prominent members on a bus from Orlando. We were delighted to be in the VIP Area to cheer John Young and Bob Crippen into orbit.

Joe Weingarten

Joe Weingarten's Space Shuttle Story
(Submitted 8 July 2011)
By: Joe Weingarten
AIAA Senior Member

In 1973 I had finished a major study into aircraft accidents and structural failures of aircraft as a result of a crash. This resulted in a major change within the Air Force in internal structural criteria of aircraft in 1974. In early 1976 NASA was concerned that the shuttle requirements for a crash landing appeared to be high and caused a weight growth to the vehicle. At the request of NASA I started to study the possible crash loads for a spacecraft. I remember sitting in the Myron Malkin office in Washington with engineers from Huston and proposing they cut in half the internal structural crertia for the shuttle. Their gasps and you don't mean that, etc. sort of the same comments from Air Force safety personnel I had heard 2 years earlier, until I showed them the shuttle would have to crash land in its own length to achieve the load factors they wanted. Mr. Malkin just looked at his engineers and said "he got you, its cut in half." Actually the end number was almost half but a major reduction in a design factor for both the shuttle and payloads. In January 1977 I was awarded the AIAA Lawrence Sperry Award for my work on both lowering the requirements related to both aircraft/spacecraft design and cargo to be moved in those vehicles. It is very sad to see the end of this era I was part of 35 years ago.

Dick Morris

Dick Morris's Space Shuttle Story
(Submitted 8 July 2011)
By: Dick Morris
AIAA Senior Member

I was very disappointed that NASA selected a partly-reusable design for the Shuttle, but as development progressed and first flight approached, I began to be more upbeat about the program. As a junior engineer on the SRAM program I was able to obtain a car pass to see the Apollo 17 launch from our chief engineer's secretary, and I decided to try again. I requested and received a pass for the Kennedy Parkway viewing area, where I watched the Apollo 17 launch. I flew to Orlando, rented a car, and drove out to the cape. The night before the launch I joined the crowd parked along the highway south of the main gate. Early the next morning they opened the gate, but my battery was dead!

I managed to get a ride with someone. They were going to the causeway viewing area, so they dropped me off at the Kennedy Parkway and I hiked north through the night. As I passed the VAB, I saw someone up ahead, also walking north. I caught up with him after a while, and it turned out to be Eric Dahlstrom, whom I met on a Smithsonian tour to the Apollo-Soyuz launch years earlier! We reached the viewing area, found a spot, and settled in to await the launch.

The excitement rose as they came out of the T-9 minute hold, and the count progressed normally to main engine ignition. A few seconds later they fired the SRBs and the Shuttle rose majestically from the pad. I thought I saw the vehicle translate to the left, and for a few anxious moments I thought something was wrong, but it straightened out and cleared the launch tower. Then the sound reached us and I was stunned once again by the awesome rumble of those engines - a sound which is felt as well as heard. We clearly saw SRB separation and followed the orbiter down toward the horizon until it went out of sight. I got a ride back to my car, somebody stopped and gave me a jump-start, and I drove back to Orlando.

I flew out to Los Angeles and the day of the landing my cousin Ron and I drove his delivery truck out to the dry lake at Edwards AFB. We parked amid a sea of vehicles on the east side of the lake bed to wait, and listened to the re-entry commentary on the radio. The damage to the TPS noted earlier proved not to be too severe and the re-entry went normally. Columbia crossed the California coast, and a short time later the announcer said that she was passing over the east side of the dry lake bed. I looked straight up and almost immediately saw a very small black triangle headed rapidly eastward. I didn't know at first whether it was Columbia or a chase plane, but it turned out to be the orbiter. I was probably the first person to see it with the naked eye after re-entry. (I used to enjoy watching outgoing artillery rounds at Firebase Rakkasan, so I had pretty good eyes back then.)

I flew down to the cape for another launch as part of an NSS tour (led by Lori Garver), but we missed the launch. It was scrubbed because of a problem with an APU in one of the SRBs. The next launch was Challenger, and a parade of skeletons came rattling out of the closet. That, and subsequent events have shown that my early disappointment was justified.

The next launch was Challenger. I stayed home for a few hours to watch the launch, but they had a problem with the hatch and it didn't go. Later that day, at work, we were discussing the scrub, and I said to Walt, my lead engineer, "I wonder what the cold temperatures they are predicting for tonight will do to the o-rings in the SRBs?". As it turned out, I wasn't the only one wondering about that. I stayed home again the next day, and a little over one minute into the flight I saw a lot of gas circulating around the bottom of the ET which I did not remember seeing before. I just had time to wonder "What the hell is that?!" when it blew. That, and subsequent events have shown that my early disappointment was justified.

The fact is that the Shuttle never came close to fulfilling its promises of a reliable, low-cost space transportation system, which NASA said it needed in order to build a space station. When Challenger showed that the Shuttle was not, and never would be, such a vehicle, NASA's response was: proceed with the space station anyway!

They also embarked on two successive programs to replace the Shuttle: NASP and X-33. Both were single-stage, horizontal-landing designs which were chosen for no other reason than that they were the most difficult ways to build a launch vehicle that NASA could imagine, and, therefore, promised to "push the technology" and "justify" a great deal of technology development work for their research centers. Both were miserable failures, and so we now find ourselves with nothing.

Christopher J. Cohan

Christopher J. Cohan's Space Shuttle Story
(Submitted 29 June 2011)
By: Christopher J. Cohan
Senior AIAA Member, Retired

Phase_B_Proposal_Cohan_svAfter receiving degrees in aeronautical engineering I went to work for General Dynamics/Convair in San Diego in April 1957, where I was assigned to the aerodynamics group supporting advanced concept studies. That fall the Russians launched Sputnik, which opened up the world of aerospace. A year or so later, Convair started looking into lifting reentry vehicle concepts and I was assigned to the analysis of the aerodynamics and trajectories, which at that time I knew very little about. I had to quickly become an expert in hypersonic aerodynamics and reentry trajectories. Over the next 10 years Convair acquired a number of NASA and Air Force contracts for concept studies of both reuseable boosters and lifting reentry vehicles which could fly back from space and land like an airplane. I was assigned to support those studies and became one of the pioneers in the design, aerodynamics and reentry performance of such systems and had the opportunity to lecture on those subjects in the United States and Europe.

These early studies culminated in early 1970 with the start of the Space Shuttle Program, which would be conducted by NASA but had to meet certain Air Force requirements. The initial concept was to be a manned reuseable booster and a manned reuseable orbiter. Convair, with its Atlas booster experience, teamed with Rockwell to bid for one of the Phase B preliminary design contracts. I spent six weeks at Rockwell coordinating our reuseable booster input to the proposal, and after our team won one of the contracts, I spent the next eighteen months, going back and forth between San Diego and the Rockwell plant in Downey, CA managing our technical interface with Rockwell. By the summer of 1971, NASA realized they didn't have the funds to develop two new, manned, reuseable hypersonic vehicles and decided to develop the orbiter first. This decision introduced the external tank and a four month study of various liquid and solid booster rockets. Even the GAO offered an approach. In early 1972 NASA made the decision to use solid rocket boosters and as somewhat of a surprise they would be reuseable.

For the next six years I remained involved with the shuttle program since we at Convair had contracts for concept studies of orbit transfer rockets that could be taken to space as a Shuttle payload. The last years of my Convair career were involved with cruise missiles but I never lost my interest in the Space Shuttle Program since I was involved in its beginnings. I will never forget Saturday morning, Feb 1, 2003. My wife woke me up and said the Shuttle was missing. I knew Columbia was due to return that morning and unfortunately, from my background, I knew that if Columbia was no longer in orbit and easy to find, it had started its reentry and once started there was no way to stop; there had obviously been a disaster.

As I write this there is only one remaining flight, the Atlantis. The Space Shuttle Program is 40 years old this year and the Shuttles have been flying for 30 years. I will always have many memories of the program since I was involved in the beginning. Fortunately there are more good ones than bad ones. I find it interesting that many of the concepts we studied in the 1960's that led to the Space Shuttle are coming back to life almost 50 years later.

James J. Cameron

James J. Cameron's Space Shuttle Story
(Submitted 31 May 2011)
By: James J. Cameron
Senior AIAA Member, Retired

My story on the Space Shuttle begins as an aeronautical engineer with Rockwell International in Downey California and the transitioning from the Apollo program with the preparation/readiness of GSE and Special Test Equipment (STE) to the 1st "breadboard" test of the Orbiter Environmental Crew Life Support Systems (ECLSS) in April of 1973. The Downey plant built the Crew Module and Aft Fuselage and then transported them to Palmdale for final assembly with the many other components to complete the Orbiter. I flew daily for many months from Long Beach Airport to Palmdale to support STE testing. In the spring of 1977, I took our 3 children out of school to watch 1st drop test of Enterprise from 20,00 ft. off of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) 747 carrier at Palmdale. The hydraulic system on the Enterprise leaked so badly that we had to modify and install a special 250-gallon fluid storage tank for placement in the payload bay to make sure there was sufficient hydraulic fluid to complete the drop tests and do it on schedule. Later I went to work for Martin Marietta and was preparing the Site Launch Complex Number 6 (SLC-6) at Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) to perform polar launches when the Challenger blew up on February 10 of 1986. We were within 6 months of launching from VAFB.

Thomas Moser

Thomas Moser's Space Shuttle Story
The Ham and Eggs Society
(Submitted 17 May 2011)
By: Thomas Moser
AIAA Fellow, Retired

(This story is from the book “Manned Space Flight: Personal Reflections on the Space Program” by LeRoy “Roy” Day to be published in July 2011).

Ham-and-Eggs-SocietyIn the last years of the Space Shuttle development, there were continuing problems with the thermal protection tiles on the Orbiter which resulted in several rescheduling dates for the first launch. The Congress was critical and NASA management became concerned about the slips in the first launch date. The NASA Administrator, Al Lovelace, called a meeting of the top program management in early summer 1980. He stated the importance of setting a realistic launch date which could be met and to which all program managers were committed. He was very firm but ended the meeting with a bit of levity. To emphasize the seriousness of the commitment he was asking the managers to make, he told the following story.

The pig and the chicken were having a talk in the barnyard.
The pig asked the chicken, “Are you involved in the big dinner our Master is planning for next week?”
“Of course I’m involved,” replied the chicken. “I’m furnishing the eggs.”
“Aw, that’s nothing,” the pig snorted. “You’re just involved.
I’m supplying the ham; I’m committed.”

When the laughter died down, Al Lovelace said, “I want all of you to be like that pig. I want you committed.”

So the date was set for ten months from that meeting as April 1981 for the first launch of the Space Shuttle. The successful first launch actually occurred on April 12, 1981. After the launch, the NASA Administrator said he wanted “those individuals who had contributed significantly” to be identified and to attend the next Management Council meeting at Cape Kennedy. There he recognized those individuals and said they constituted the “Space Shuttle Ham and Eggs Society.” Each person received a personalized wallet card with a picture of two fried eggs and a slice of ham with the words, “are you involved— or committed?” Following the Management Council meeting, the NASA Administrator invited all those inducted into the Ham and Eggs Society for a barbeque on the beach at Cape Kennedy. There a group picture was taken which was made into a certificate for each member. The following people attended this first get-together of the Space Shuttle Ham and Eggs Society.

Image: left to right, front row:
Walt Dankhoff, Walt Williams, Al Lovelace, John Yardley, Kenny Kleinknecht,
Mike Weeks, Bob Thompson, Bob Gray, Bill Lucas, Ed Andrews, Gerry Griffin,
Chris Kraft, Aaron Cohen, Tom Moser

left to right, back row:
Earl Reese, Frank Van Rensselaer, Bob Lindstrom, Dave Braunstein,
George Hardy, Roy Day, Dan Germany, Phil Culberson, George Page,
Jim Odom, J.R. Thompson, Phil Glynn

Not present: President Ronald Regan, John Young, Bob Crippen, Dick Kohrs, Dick Smith,
Deke Slayton, and Guy Cohen.

This story is from the book “Manned Space Flight: Personal Reflections on the Space Program” by LeRoy “Roy” Day to be published in July 2011.

Michiel Straathof

Michiel Straathof's Space Shuttle Story
(Submitted 10 May 2011)
By: Michiel Straathof
AIAA Member

STS_131_Launch_PhotoWhen in late 2009 my professor asked me to visit a conference in Orlando in the spring of 2010, one of the first things I did was check the Space Shuttle launch manifest. However, to my disappointment, no launch was planned during the time of the conference. Discovery was scheduled to launch on STS-131 on March 18 and my conference would start on April 12. But then, midway through February, luck struck in the form of a cold spell moving through Florida, preventing shuttle Discovery to make the trip from its processing hangar to the Vehicle Assembly Building. This would still have allowed a late March launch, but a scheduling conflict with a Soyuz spacecraft departing the International Space Station, pushed the launch to April 5... just one week prior to my conference. I knew that this would probably be my only chance of ever seeing a Space Shuttle launch, something I had dreamed of for a long time. Having to drive cross-country to see a launch is one thing, but having to fly across the Atlantic is something else. At the end of 2007 I had gotten an invitation to join the ESA team to watch the launch of the Columbus module on STS-122, but I decided that it wasn't worth the risk. It turned out to be a good decision; STS-122 was postponed by 2 months and none of the ESA team members saw the launch.

But for me things still looked promising. I would land in Orlando on April 3 together with my sister, who I had convinced to come along. This would give us time to find a good viewing spot on April 4 and watch the launch in the early hours of April 5. For the next few weeks I kept a very close eye on the shuttle processing, for I knew that delays are all too likely. Then, just three weeks before the planned launch, NASA announced that a helium isolation valve in Discovery´s OMS pod had failed and that if repairs would prove necessary, the shuttle would have to be rolled back to the VAB for repairs. This would certainly delay the launch by weeks if not months, and ruin my chance of witnessing it. My only chance was for NASA to develop the necessary flight rationale for launching Discovery with the failed valve still in place. Fortunately, after 12 days of troubleshooting, NASA decided to press on with an April 5 launch.

In the early morning of April 5 we found tens of thousands of people along the Titusville coast and just barely managed to find a place to park our small rental car. After a few more hours of waiting, just before dawn, the sky suddenly lit up and shuttle Discovery could clearly be seen climbing into the sky. Some seconds later the shuttle was just a speck on top of a huge column of fire and smoke, brilliantly reflected in the Indian River. After about a minute, the thundering sound of the SRBs reached the place where we were standing, making us feel the true power of this amazing machine. After Discovery had disappeared over the horizon, the Sun came up and lit the scattered plume of smoke left by the shuttle. This incredible light show was the perfect end to an amazing experience that I will never forget.

Allan J. McDonald

Allan J. McDonald's Space Shuttle Story
The Agony of Challenger (STS-51L) and the Ecstasy of Discovery (STS-26R)
(Submitted 28 April 2011)
By: Allan J. McDonald
AIAA Fellow, Retired
Former Director for the Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Motor Project at the time of Challenger;
and the Vice President of Engineering for Morton Thiokol during the redesign of the SRM

Cover_Truth_Lies_and_OringsTruth, Lies, and O-rings: Inside the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster is a book about my experiences associated with the Space Shuttle Challenger accident in January 1986; I published this book with the help of Dr. James R. Hansen, Director of the Honors College at Auburn University and author of the best selling biography FIRST MAN: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong. I was the Director of the Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Motor Project at Morton Thiokol at the time, and I was the one who was at the Kennedy Space Center trying to convince NASA not to launch because of the concerns raised by the Morton Thiokol engineers on whether the expected cold temperatures may prevent the O-rings from sealing the joints in the solid rocket boosters.

As the senior management official at KSC for my company, I refused to sign the recommendation to launch. NASA decided to launch anyway, the O-rings didn't seal and the Challenger exploded. I also volunteered this information to the Presidential Commission investigating the accident after NASA testified before this Commission several times and failed to reveal the original don’t launch recommendation in these pre-launch discussions. I nearly lost my job over all this, but with support of the Presidential Commission and various members of Congress, I was reinstated to my job and selected to head up the redesign of the solid rocket motors to return the Space Shuttle to safe flight as soon as possible.

Allan_J_McDonaldMy experiences in testifying before the Presidential Commission on the Challenger accident on five different occasions, before the U.S. Congress twice, walking out of a Senate hearing, participating in litigation by the Astronauts' families and ex-employees against Morton Thiokol, difficulties encountered with the media along with returning the Space Shuttle to flight status is the subject matter of my book; the book also contains a major contributor to the Challenger accident that was not included in NASA’s Failure Team’s report submitted to the Presidential Commission (i.e. GOX venting returning to the Shuttle on the launch pad).

This great national tragedy was selected as the World News Story of the Year in 1986. There have been numerous books published on the Challenger accident over the past 25 years, but with the exception of my book, none of them were published by anyone remotely connected with the accident or aftermath. I also relate my experiences with the debris issues that caused serious tile damage to the orbiter on the first two flights after Challenger i.e. Discovery (STS-26R) and Atlantis (STS-27R) in 1988. These two flights suffered some of the most serious debris damage to the orbiter prior to the loss of Columbia in 2003 and were a premonition of that accident.

Carl F. Ehrlich, Jr.

Paper on Space Shuttle
Why the Wings Stay on the Space Shuttle Orbiter During First Stage Ascent
(Paper presented at SPACE 2010)
By: Carl F. Ehrlich, Jr.
Retired, Calabasas, CA

Wind tunnel tests of the Space Shuttle launch configuration conducted in early 1974 to determine if the elevons were going to exceed the load limits of their actuators. These expectations were confirmed but they also showed some even more disturbing results: i.e., the wings were going to exceed their design margins by a large amount and would potentially break off during mated vehicle ascent.

This paper documents the solution to these very significant problems. At that point, in the Shuttle development, the contracts for the Wing and External Tank designs had already been let to other contractors and any redesign could have led to very expensive contract modifications. An extensive series of additional wind tunnel tests were conducted which included a long series of oil flow visualizations to document the flow on the wing panels during ascent. These data were extensively plotted and cross-plotted over the ensuing months. The resulting "fix" turned out to be a very simple and elegant solution which, in short, was to fly in the now standard heads-down attitude: i.e., at negative angle of attack. Thus, the scheme was to fly the wings at near zero panel load and to deflect the elevons as a function of Mach number to track close to zero hinge moment. An avionics box on each of the Solid Rocket Boosters were later found to be the culprits.

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Randy Rodarte

Randy Rodarte's Space Shuttle Story
(Submitted 12 April 2011)
By: Randy Rodarte
Supplier Management – Proprietary Programs Space & Intelligence Systems (S&IS)
Boeing Defense, Space & Security (BDS), Seal Beach, CA

I worked at Rockwell, Downey, Space Division from 1980 through 1999 and was a member of Supplier Management. The excitement of SS first flight in 1981 was an event I will never forget. I managed various procurements in hydraulic, mechanical, electrical, pyrotechnics and structural flight hardware for the entire SS fleet. A highlight for me was managing the Wing Structure subcontract for six years with Grumman Aerospace in Bethpage, NY. Also, I was the Division - Small Business Administrator for Space division from 1992 through 1996. Working on the Shuttle Program and being a member of Human Spaceflight was challenging, exciting and interesting. Being awarded a Manned Spaceflight Honoree for STS-74 was truly memorable and my wife and I will never forget that special recognition and SS Atlantis launch.

Chuck Wohl

Chuck Wohl's Space Shuttle Story
Engle – Truly Duet
(Submitted 12 April 2011)
By: Chuck Wohl, AIAA Senior Member
IBM Flight Software
Crew Trainer, Test and Operations Support, 1977

In the spring and summer of 1977, Joe Engle and Dick Truly trained for these ALT flights in the crew training simulator in Bldg. 5 at JSC. The motion based landing simulator was computer driven and occasionaly some part of the system would fail resulting in a premature termination of the landing simulation. When these failures occurred, Engle and Truly would break out in a duet singing a chorus of a popular song at that time, "You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me Lucille". The song and recording was made famous by Kenny Rogers, but for me, I will always remember the singing sensation of Engle and Truly singing a verse and/or chorus of You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me Lucille.

Jeff Krukin

Jeff Krukin's Space Shuttle Story
Shuttle Diplomacy
(Submitted 11 April 2011)
By: Jeff Krukin
AIAA Senior Member

Shuttle-Krukin-photoAs printed in the May/June 1981 issue of INSIGHT magazine – following Jeff's service as a graduate intern at NASA’s International Affairs Division.

Columbia has flown and an odyssey has begun; an odyssey which, when fully realized, shall rival the original Homeric epic itself. Should the United States pursue a course of such magnificence and difficulty? Absolutely! And you know some of the reasons why: the economic utilization of space is vital to communications, remote-sensing, defense, and the strengthening of our scientific and technological capabilities which are the very core of our society’s well-being.

There is yet another reason why the Reagan Administration must staunchly support a vibrant space policy. Our ability to utilize space can be a vital part of the United States foreign policy. This is the issue I wish to address here.

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Dr. Keng C. Yap

Dr. Keng C. Yap's Space Shuttle Story
(Submitted 10 April 2011)
By: Dr. Keng C. Yap
AIAA Senior Member
Orbiter Wing Leading Edge Impact Detection System (WLEIDS)
Project Principal Investigator & Technical Lead
Loads & Dynamics, Boeing Space Exploration

Yap_Image_WLEIDS_smallThe Wing Leading Edge Impact Detection System (WLEIDS) was developed under the Shuttle Program’s Return-to-Flight initiative following the Columbia disaster. The system was deployed onboard the Orbiter to detect ascent and on-orbit debris impacts, so as to support the assessment of wing leading edge structural integrity prior to Orbiter re-entry. While there are many structural health monitoring systems that have been designed and experimented in the aviation industry, this is one of very few that operated successfully in a real-world environment, despite challenging issues such as structural nonlinearity, noise response, and uncertainty inherent to an inverse problem. I have initiated and led many analysis development and continuous improvement efforts in debris impact detection, impact criteria evaluation, and damage risk assessment. I find it particularly rewarding to see the system evolving from experimental impact detection to a full mission operation that plays an integral role in the Orbiter’s re-entry safety decision process.

During the Shuttle flight STS-132, I supported the primary analysis overnight shift as usual, and found no ascent debris impact indication that is associated with a significant damage risk. During early inspection on Flight Day 2, the Orbiter Boom Sensor System (OBSS) used to inspect the wings for damage could not be properly positioned due to a cable snag. This resulted in limited coverage and resolution that prevented clearing the Orbiter wing leading edge from ascent debris damage. While an additional extra-vehicular activity (EVA) was planned to free the cable, the Orbiter Project Office (OPO) reviewed the limited inspection results supplemented by other imagery surveys. On Flight Day 5, I briefed the OPO with additional results from WLEIDS, particularly on the risk of damaging impacts potentially masked by aero-acoustic noise during the period of high dynamic pressure.

The results helped the OPO reach a consensus that the wing leading edge was at a low risk of having sustained any unacceptable damage, thereby ending several days of spirited debate on the appropriate action. Mission management subsequently proceeded with preplanned activities while deferring the re-entry clearance to routine late inspection. An important lesson learned from the experience is that treating structural health monitoring as part of a probabilistic risk management framework had enabled the Shuttle Program to realize the amount of risk buy-down through the system.

Paul W. Schumacher, Jr.

Dr. Paul W. Schumacher, Jr.'s Space Shuttle Story
The Space Shuttle Put Me Through College
(Submitted 8 April 2011)
By: Paul W. Schumacher, Jr., Ph.D.
AIAA Associate Fellow

Of course, my parents, Paul and Bettie Schumacher, made huge sacrifices for their four sons. However, for a time in the 1970s, all four were in college or graduate school at once, an impossibility without other sources of funding. In my case, after a year of Aerospace Engineering at Virginia Tech, I entered the Cooperative Education Program at the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center (later Johnson Space Center) in March 1972. By bending rules only slightly, I was able to do an extra co-op quarter in the Winter/Spring of 1975, right before I graduated, and ended up with a full 3 years of Government service during undergraduate school.

I worked in Building 16 in the Guidance and Control Division (later Control Systems Development Division) of the Engineering Directorate under Division Chief Robert G. Chilton and Hybrid Computation and Simulation Branch Chief James W. Van Artsdalen. Both men had a profoundly positive and formative influence on me. In fact, my co-op experience convinced me I needed to go to graduate school.

My co-op job was in Shuttle flight control simulation. The Shuttle design was going through radical iterations in those early days, and we needed simulations good enough to identify control problems, control margins, handling qualities in atmospheric flight, and much more, absolutely none of which I understood when I got put to work on it. Somewhere I still have a set of blueprints for a Shuttle Orbiter with a V-tail and impressive JATO boosters for abort, with which I had slaved over some math modeling. That was a fun one!

Some of the simulations required man-in-the-loop, so we often had astronauts coming over to fly our simulations. One of my favorites was a Manual Thrust Vector Control simulation, designed to assess whether a human could steer the Shuttle into orbit in case of certain kinds of computer failures during launch. I got to be in the cockpit mockup with Apollo astronaut Ken Mattingly for a few runs of that one. I also spent a lot of time working on the breadboard-phase Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory. Even as a co-op, I got to design an instrument panel layout for the breadboard cockpit mockup that contained working dials and displays. The SAIL got more and more attention from the whole Shuttle program as time went on, which was very satisfying.

In 1973, another co-op arrived in the Branch, a 16-year-old student from the Engineering Science Department at Purdue, Janice Voss. She and I became good friends and worked on several flight simulations together, including one of a Shuttle Orbiter with deployable jet engines for landing. In later years she went on to get a doctorate at MIT and became a Shuttle Mission Specialist. I went on for a doctorate at Virginia Tech and took a different path, helping track everything in orbit, including Shuttles, for the Department of Defense.

David Wokes

Dr. David Wokes' Space Shuttle Story
(Submitted 7 March 2011)
By: Dr. David Wokes
AIAA Student Member, Flight Dynamics Engineer, Science Missions Support Section,
VCS Aktiengesellschaft, contracted to European Space Operations Centre

In my early teens my family and I had the honour of meeting Sir Patrick Moore, because of my brother's passion for astronomy. Though the objective was to further inspire Stephen to follow his dreams, my course had also inadvertently been altered by the experience of looking through this gentleman's garden telescope and clearly seeing Saturn's rings as the planet arced through the night sky. My studies began to focus more on the sciences in hopes that one day I would become an astronaut on the famed American shuttles, and by 2001 I had started a degree in Mathematics, following my brother's footsteps. The first year had been a difficult challenge though, so when July came and exams were over, our parents took us to Florida for our holiday, fortuitously timed for the launch of STS-104: Atlantis. If there is ever an event that could re-ignite the fires of aspiration, it is to see the launch of these behemoths. At first it is disappointing to find yourself viewing something from seven miles away; is it really the closest point spectators can get? But to see the night sky flare into virtual daylight as this silent glowing mass transcends into the atmosphere is an experience that cannot disappoint. And then, over thirty seconds later, the reality of this achievement truly hits home as the Earth-shuddering roar of the engines can be both heard and felt. To me, the delay was the most stunning: to be so evidently far away, yet so bright and so loud, is a stark reminder of the magnitude of these rockets. The event spurred me once more, to complete my studies and continue my endeavours.

During those years, and up until recently, I would regularly challenge my aspirations of working in the space industry and contributing to this world in a field that is engineered to inspire and excite. At some point I would surely have to give up such dreams and target a more down-to-Earth career. But by following those dreams I have obtained my PhD in Astrodynamics and am now working for the European Space Agency, often talking to my doctoral brother working in the company that leads small-satellite technology in Britain. Different continent, sure, but all in all that's not too egregious for the boys who watched rockets charge upwards into the starry depths, fantasizing where tomorrow will take us.

Srini Srinivas

Srini Srinivas' Space Shuttle Story
(Submitted 22 February 2011)
By: Srini Srinivas
AIAA Associate Fellow, Retired Engineer/Scientist
Worked for over three decades on NASA Programs, since 1971

Srini_for_webAs the Space Shuttle flights come to an end, I look back and feel proud to have been associated with such a tremendous program. It has been an astonishing journey that has permanently etched the testimony to the human space flight achievements.

“My story on Space Shuttle Program” began in late 1974 when I started working on the Shuttle Remote Manipulator System (SRMS) program as a System Engineer at SPAR Aerospace in Toronto, Canada. SPAR was the prime contractor for the SRMS Design, Development, Test, and Evaluation. I was with the program from the time system requirements were developed right through to actual flight verification. As a principal system engineer I was involved in multiple aspects of the design and development, encompassing control system design, control algorithms development, math modeling and simulation, control and operation of the Simulation Facility (SIMFAC). SIMFAC was used to provide training to the astronauts and develop operating procedures. Training the astronauts at SIMFAC in Toronto and at Houston using the Manipulator Development Facility was the most exciting work ever. During those long hours spent on the simulator not only were training objectives achieved but I also had a lot of fun working with the astronauts. While on the simulator I remember the songs that were sung and the jokes that were exchanged over the intercom. I can never forget those golden moments. The highlight of my working on NASA programs was the SRMS training of the first group of astronauts - Sally Ride, the first women astronaut, veterans of multiple shuttle flights Hank Hartsfield and Rick Hauck, memorable Judy Resnik, and Ron McNair, first medical doctor astronaut Norm Thagard and others. What a great opportunity that it was for me!

Samuel Kraus

Samuel Kraus' Space Shuttle Story
(Submitted 14 February 2011)
By: Samuel Kraus
AIAA Associate Fellow
(Worked for NACA and NASA from 1949 to 1962)

One of the first firings of the Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) took place on a horizontal test stand with several transducers ahead of the test engine. Higher pressures than anticipated were measured. At Rockwell International’s Space Transportation and Systems Group, I was asked to determine the cause. Rocketdyne told us that the engine had a two stage combustion process. Some hydrogen flowed into the main stage combustion chamber and out the nozzle before main stage ignition, which could form a hydrogen-air mixture just downstream of the exit of the nozzle.

I calculated the resulting pressure on the orbiter base heat shield for a three SSME start, which showed that the pressure would break the orbiter base heat shield. NASA didn’t believe my calculations. Rockwell persuaded NASA to install pressure transducers on an existing 1inch thick aluminum plate on the three SSME test stand. When NASA saw the resulting test output from the pressure transducers, they called an emergency weekend meeting. At that meeting, three teams were created to calculate independently the pressures on the Orbiter base heat shield for a threeengines start. The calculated pressures agreed within 10% of my original.

Required to find a way to reduce the pressure to an acceptable level, we needed to burn off the hydrogen before a large cloud developed. Another engineer suggested pyrotechnic igniters. One fireworks company agreed to develop them. I specified the required gap between any of the burning particles and the downstream end of the nozzle. Each nozzle needed to have two of these igniters with independent electrical systems in case one failed. NASA adopted the required igniters. Nowadays, when you see a Shuttle launch, you can see the sparks of the igniters working just before liftoff. My children refer to them as “Daddy’s Sparklers.”

Norman F. Schneidewind

Dr. Norman F. Schneidewind's Space Shuttle Story
(Submitted 12 February 2011)
By: Dr. Norman F. Schneidewind
AIAA Member and IEEE Fellow
Professor Emeritus of Information Sciences, Naval Post Graduate School
Former IEEE Congressional Fellow, U.S. Senate

After the Challenger accident, I was asked by the Shuttle software contractor, IBM Federal Systems Division, to consult on software reliability. I was informed that my model -- Schneidewind Software Reliability Model -- had performed best among several models, using Shuttle software failure data. Subsequently, I made many visits to contractor and NASA facilities in Houston, making presentations, analyzing software failure data, and consulting with key personnel. My model became one of four, and the only one recommended for industry application, in the AIAA Recommended Practice for Software Reliability. Based largely on my work on the Shuttle, I was elected a Fellow of the IEEE in 1992 and the IEEE Reliability Engineer of the Year in 2001.

Carl F. Ehrlich, Jr. and James A. Martin

Paper on Space Shuttle
Shuttle Variations and Derivatives that Never Happened - An Historical Review
(Paper presented at the 2004 Joint Propulsion Conference, Ft. Lauderdale, FL)
By: Carl F. Ehrlich, Jr. (Retired, Calabasas, CA)
and James A. Martin (The Boeing Co., Huntington Beach, CA)

While the Space Shuttle was under detailed development and fabrication, we at the former Rockwell International looked at ways that the Shuttle system could be further developed by using the system elements in new ways. These involved "slicing and dicing" the Shuttle system elements in new ways and combinations that used almost everything in one unique way or another. Concepts that we looked at included stretching the orbiter, carrying a very large number of passengers, using the aft fuselage as a recoverable module, and the development of liquid rocket boosters to replace the baseline Solid Rocket Boosters. Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) concepts and system architectures have been explored before and subsequent to the Space Shuttle development and operation. Future studies have this design database available from which to depart. This history could be an important consideration in the forthcoming era of space exploration announced by the President.

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George W. Jeffs

Article on Space Shuttle
The Space Shuttle Design and Construction
First published March 1979
By: George W. Jeffs
(former) President, Aerospace Operations, Rockwell International

Space_Shuttle_Design_and_ConstructionMajor astronautical endeavors represent a culmination of much of the total body of current scientific, engineering, and technological knowledge and art. They also demand skillful application of most of today's sophisticated administrative, economic, and political systems.

This article is concerned with the scope of scientific and engineering disiplines associated with the design and construction of the Space Shuttle Vehicle, the world's first reusable space transportation system.

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Dale L. Stoner

Dale L. Stoner's Space Shuttle Story
(Submitted 12 February 2011)
By: Dale L. Stoner
Senior AIAA Member, Retired

I invested in a G.A.S. earnest capsule. My sons and I were at the first launch of the Shuttle in spite of criticism from my peers about it being 3 years behind schedule. We waited in the airport with the portholes in the rocks a ways from the site as traffic just stopped there the night before. The radio kept us up to the countdown the next morning until the flight computer could not talk to the mission computer and the launch was scrubbed with 2 minutes to go. My sons missed the view as they had to go to school the next day. I watched it arch into the sky in a trail of flame from the Otis Escalator porch in Palm Beach Gardens where I worked for UTC-GPD. My peers gave me a cartoon of a guy with a TRS-80 hooked to the shuttle and it finally lifting off.