Journal of Failure Analysis and Prevention

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 67–73 | Cite as

Columbia space shuttle: Failure analysis of a fuel valve

  • A. Notis
  • A. R. Marder
Case Histories


A crater was formed on a fuel valve of the Columbia by an unknown high-temperature heat source during re-entry and catastrophic failure of the space shuttle. Stereomicroscopy, light optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, and energy-dispersive spectroscopy were used to analyze the failure. Aluminum deposits were found on the surface of the valve as well as on the fracture surface, indicative of molten deposition during breakup of the Columbia. The area around the crater contained higher-than-usual levels of delta ferrite, probably because of reheating of the valve into the ferrite region during re-entry and then slow cooling as a result of the descent to earth.


austenite ferrite fuel valve melting stainless steel 


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Copyright information

© ASM International 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Notis
    • 1
  • A. R. Marder
    • 2
  1. 1.Lehigh UniversityBethlehem
  2. 2.Department of Materials Science and EngineeringLehigh UniversityBethlehem

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