Thursday, September 29, 2011

Flight Tests CV-990 on Solved Shuttle Tire Failure

Flight Tests CV-990Space shuttle Discovery touched down on the Shuttle Landing Facility runway at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 19, 1985 at the conclusion of mission STS-23 (51D), the 16th shuttle flight. Although the touchdown was uneventful, what happened at the end of the rollout was anything but.

This was the fifth time an orbiter had landed at Kennedy on the new runway built especially for space shuttle landings. At touchdown, Discovery weighed just over 198,000 lbs, one of the lowest weights of a returning orbiter to that point. At very nearly the end of the roll out, the unexpected happened - the inside tire on right main landing gear blew.

"The whole orbiter shook-I thought one of the fuel tanks had blown up," recalls Jeffrey Hoffman, a mission specialist on the flight. While engineers found high tire wear on previous landings, the tire failure on 51D's landing shocked everyone.

There were several contributing factors to the blown tire, the only time a shuttle tire failed during a mission. The crosswind was not an obvious factor, particularly since it did not exceed the maximum allowable crosswind for a shuttle landing.

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