Space Shuttle Launch Delayed

By ThinkReliability Staff

Launching a space shuttle is a complicated process (as we discussed in last week’s blog).  Not only is the launching process complex, finding an acceptable date for launch is also complex.  This was demonstrated this week as the shuttle launch was delayed four times, for four separate issues and now will not be able to happen until the end of the month, at the earliest.

There are discrete windows during which a launch  to the International Space Station (which is the destination of this mission) can occur.  At some times, the solar angles at the International Space Station would result in the shuttle overheating while it was docked at the Space Station.  The launch windows are open only when the angles are such that the overheating will not occur.

The previous launch window was open until November 5th.  The launch was delayed November 1st for helium and nitrogen leaks, November 2nd for a circuit glitch, November 4th for weather, and November 5th for a gaseous hydrogen leak.  After the November 5th delay, crews discovered a  crack in the insulating foam, necessitating repairs before the launch.  These delays pushed the shuttle launch out of the available November launch window.  The next launch window is from December 1st through 5th, which gives the shuttle experts slightly less than a month to prepare for launch, or the mission may be delayed until next year.

Although not a lot of information has been released about the specific issues that have delayed the launches, we can put what we do know into a Cause Map.  A thorough root cause analysis built as a Cause Map can capture all of the causes in a simple, intuitive format that fits on one page.  Once more information is released about the specifics of the issues that delayed the launch, more detail can easily be added to the Cause Map to capture all the causes for the delay.  Additionally, the timeline can be updated to reflect the date of the eventual launch.

To view the problem outline, Cause Map, and launch timeline, please click on “Download PDF” above.