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Abort Guidance System
Auxiliary Power Unit
Abort to Orbit
Russian Micropurification Unit (Russian)
Carbon Dioxide Removal System
Colony Forming Unit
Control Moment Gyroscope
Cell Performance Monitor
Compound Specific Analyzer-Combustible Products
Extravehicular Mobility Unit
Electrical Power System
Fuel Cell Monitoring System
Functional Cargo Block (Russian)
Flight Safety Office
Galley Iodine Removal Assembly
Guidance, Navigation, and Control
General Purpose Computer
Global Positioning System
Inertial Measurement Unit
International Space Station
Internal Thermal Control System
Launch Control Officer
Low Iodine Residual System
Loss of Crew
Loss of Vehicle
Minimum Duration Flight
Master Events Controller
Main Landing Gear
Micro-Meteoroid Orbital Debris
Marshall Space Flight Center
NASA Standard Initiator
Office of Safety & Mission Assurance (NASA HQ)
Protuberance Air Load
Precision Approach Path Indicator
Primary Avionics Software System
Pyrotechnic Initiator Controller
Partial Pressure of CO2
Reaction Control System/Subsystem
Remote Manipulator System
Russia or Russian
Return to Launch Site
Safety & Mission Assurance
Solid Fuel Oxygen Generator
Solid Rocket Booster
Condensate Water Processor Unit (Russian)
Space Shuttle Main Engine
Space Shuttle Program
Thermal Protection System
Loss of Crew
Gemini 4 6/7/1965
Apollo 1 (AS-204) 1/27/1967
X-15 3-65-97 | 11/15/1967 | Crew: 1 | Loss of Crew
Electrical short and crew error led to loss of control at 230,000 feet. First U.S. spaceflight fatality.
On November 15, 1967 an electrical short and crew error led to loss of control of the X-15 at 230,000 feet. During re-entry of the vehicle, the aircraft deviated off course due to a combination of the pilot's distraction, misinterpretation of instrumentation display, and possible vertigo. An electrical disturbance that occurred early in the flight had degraded the overall effectiveness of the aircraft's control system and further added to pilot workload. The aircraft entered into a high Mach spin.
The pilot was able to break free from the spin, but the aircraft was in a high-speed inverted dive. While the aircraft was still at sufficient altitude to recover from the dive, the hand controller began forcing the horizontal stabilizers to oscillate. Because of the buffeting in the spin and dive, the pilot likely lost consciousness and the aircraft broke apart.
This was the first United States spaceflight fatality.
STS-9 | 12/8/1983 | Crew: 6
A. Two APUs caught fire during rollout.
B. GPC failed on touchdown.
C. Incorrect flight control rechannelization on rollout.
A) During rollout on December 8, 1983 two Auxiliary Power Units (APUs) caught fire. Six minutes and fifty seconds after the orbiter landed, APU-1 shut down automatically due to a turbine-underspeed condition. Four minutes and twenty-four seconds later, a detonation occurred in APU-1, along with simultaneous automatic shutdown of APU-2, also the result of a turbine-underspeed condition. Fourteen minutes and forty-two seconds after APU-2 shutdown, a detonation occurred on APU-2. Post-flight examination of the orbiter aft compartment revealed fire damage to both APUs and minor shrapnel damage. Post-flight analysis indicated that both APU failures were the result of stress-corrosion cracking in the injector stems of both APUs, which resulted in leakage of hydrazine and subsequent fire/explosion events. The injector stems were subsequently redesigned to reduce susceptibility to corrosion by chromizing the stem, and to reduce material stresses by making changes in the installation processes.
B) Also during landing on December 8, a General Purpose Computer (GPC) failed on touchdown and an incorrect flight control rechannelization occurred on rollout. Due to a failure on orbit, GPC 1 was powered down prior to entry (creating an off-nominal configuration), and the remaining GPCs (2, 3, 4, and 5) were configured for entry landing. During landing rollout, GPC 2, which had previously failed on orbit but was recovered prior to entry, failed again at nose-wheel slap down.
C) The crew reacted with procedures for computer loss in a nominal configuration with GPC 1 active and nominal Flight Control System channel assignments. The crew's execution of GPC 2 malfunction procedures in this off-nominal GPC string configuration resulted in the loss of the remaining two redundant flight control strings. This was not a problem on the runway, but could have resulted in loss of control in flight.
Gemini 4 | 6/7/1965 | Crew: 2
Erroneous entry data uplinked; crew manually corrected entry flight profile.
On June 7, 1965 the computer could not be updated for entry, could not be turned off, and then stopped working entirely. The crew resorted to a rolling Mercury-type entry, rather than the lifting bank angle the computer was supposed to help them achieve.
STS-9 | 12/8/1983 | Crew: 3
Two GPCs failed during reconfiguration for entry. One GPC could not be recovered.
On December 8, 1983 about five hours prior to the planned landing time, the orbiter's General Purpose Computer (GPC) 1 failed when the primary Reaction Control System jets were fired. About six minutes later GPC 2 also failed, leaving the orbiter in free drift for approximately five minutes before GPC 3 was brought online in OPS 3 entry mode (GPC 3 had been freeze dried for on-orbit operations). Attempts to bring GPC 1 back online were unsuccessful, and it was powered down.
Although problems had occurred, GPC 2 was reinitialized and placed back online, and GPCs 2, 3, 4, and 5 were configured for entry. This off-nominal configuration led to further problems, and delayed the landing time by about eight hours. Entry was set up without GPC 1, and upon landing GPC 2 failed again. Particle Impact Noise Detection testing was instituted to screen out any contamination of the GPC boards, and a spare GPC was flown for several flights after STS-9, but was later dropped as a requirement.
SpaceShipOne 14P | 5/13/2004 | Crew: 1
Flight computer unresponsive. Recovered by rebooting.
On May 13, 2004 the flight computer on SpaceShipOne became unresponsive. During the boost following the vertical part of the trajectory, the avionics display flickered and went blank. The ground displays did not show an error. The avionics display on SpaceShipOne came back on as soon as the motor shut down.
Due to the loss of avionics during the boost, the trajectory was not precise. The avionics malfunction was traced to a dimmer, a small electrical component.
Apollo I (AS-204) | 1/27/1967 | Crew: 3 | Loss of Crew
Crew cabin fire (electrical short + high pressure O2 atmosphere).
On January 27, 1967 the crew cabin of Apollo 1 caught fire during a test with three crew members inside. The cabin was filled with a pure oxygen atmosphere and pressurized greater than ambient pressure (16.7 psi). Over the course of several hours, the oxygen permeated all materials in the cabin, which had been tested to the normal flight pressure of pure oxygen (5 psi). When the fire began it spread rapidly. Due to the pressure in the cabin, the crew members could not open the hatch to escape. Technicians in the room outside the capsule attempted to open the hatch but were driven back by the heat and smoke. Some technicians donned the available gas masks, but the masks were designed to protect against hypergolic propellant fumes, not smoke. Consequently, these technicians lost consciousness after a short time in the smoke-filled room.
All three crew members were lost.
The fire was caused by an electrical short from an unprotected wire. A subsequent review of all wiring dioded to both Main Bus A and B identified a problem with an environmental control system instrumentation wire powered from Main Bus A and B. The wire was routed over plumbing lines on the crew compartment floor, located below the left-hand crew seat, going into the left-hand equipment bay, between the environmental control unit and the oxygen panel. This Teflon-insulated wire should have had a protective Teflon overwrap, but closeout photos showed that the overwrap had slipped down, no longer providing protection. The commander likely contacted this wire with his foot when he turned to change his communications cable. The most probable initiator of the fire is an electrical arc from this wire, which was unprotected from external damage.
Factors contributing to this accident include:
Crew Injury/Illness and/or Loss of Vehicle or Mission
Related or Recurring event
LANDING & POSTLANDING