From: George Murphy (
Date: Fri Jun 06 2003 - 22:31:06 EDT

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    I don't have the exact parameters for the space shuttle but news reports of the
    tests to determine the cause of the Columbia break up-puzzle me. A piece of foam like
    that which broke loose from one of the fuel tanks and struck the shuttle's wing was
    fired at a wing at a reported speed of 530 mph = 777 ft/s. I don't know the shuttle's
    acceleration but am pretty sure its maximum must be less than 10 g = 320 ft/s^2 , so the
    acceleration of the foam relative to the wing was less than 11 g = 352 ft/s^2. To reach
    a speed of 777 ft/s at this acceleration it would then have to travel a distance

                    d = v^2/2g = (777)^2/2*352 ~ 860 ft.

    & I think this is a good deal longer than the total length of the shuttle plus fuel
            I'm just guessing at numbers here but it seems to me that the speed they're
    using is too high. Does anyone have the right values?


    George L. Murphy

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