10 Worst Space Shuttle Launch Failures

Space research is an important thing to study all the aspects of Big Bang Theory. It’s really a tough task and needs advanced space exploration technologies. There are numerous space organizations around the world and many space missions have been successfully completed. Also, out of thousands of space missions, a few hundreds of them have failed. Most of the early spaceships were crashed due to feeble technology and all space agencies are learning from their past mistakes. Some of them failed with a deadliest end and many people were killed. Here are some of the most devastating space shuttle launch failures ever in history.

10. Apollo 1, 27th January 1967

Apollo 1, 27th January 1967Photo credit Wikimedia

Apollo 1 was the first mission by the United States’ astronauts to land on the moon. The spaceship has to be launched on 21st February 1967 but could never make a flight. Three weeks before the date of final launch, the spaceship caught fire. All three crew members died in the cabin during a launch rehearsal. A team of investigators found evidence of several electric arcs in the interior equipment. This was the first ever mission to space and made a large impact on space technologies.

9. Soyuz 3, 27th March 1968

Soyuz 3, 27th March 1968Photo credit Wikimedia

Soyuz 3 was a space test flight mission launched by the Soviet Union on 26th October 1968. Seven months before the launch, Yuri Gagarin and Vladimir Seryogin died when their jet crashed near the launch site. They died while preparing for the Soyuz 3 mission. For a long time, no one knew the exact reason for the accident. Recently in April 2011, a report states that the cause of the accident was a defect in the weather balloon.

8. Vanguard  TV3, 6th December 1957

Vanguard TV3, 6th December 1957Photo credit Wikimedia

Vanguard  TV3 was the first attempt to launch a satellite into low orbit around the earth. They planned to launch the satellite on 6th December 1957 at Cape Canaveral. As the engine of the space shuttle began, the satellite starts rising. After two seconds, it lost the thrust and fall back on the ground. After that, the fuel tank explodes and destroyed the launch pad. The exact reason of the accident is unknown but low tank fuel pressure is considered as its reason. Now the remaining part of the satellite is on display at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum.

7. X-15 Fight, 15th November 1967

X-15 Fight, 15th November 1967Photo credit Wikimedia

On 15th November 1967, Michael James Adams took off the X-15 spacecraft for the test flight mission. Within a few minutes, he reached an altitude of 81 km and suddenly the aircraft starts malfunctioning. At 70 km above the ground, the aerodynamic pressure inside the aircraft increased and it entered a dangerous spin at Mach 5 (over 6000 km/h) speed. Researchers said that, he probably died 80 km above the ground, that’s why most of the people take it as a space launch failure.

6. Apollo 6, 4th April 1968

Apollo 6, 4th April 1968Photo credit Eet

Apollo 6 was the second mission of the Apollo program series. It was the final Apollo test mission to launch Saturn V vehicle. The launch was good but rest of things did not go as planned. After two minutes and five seconds, the rocket was damaged by pogo oscillations. It happened due to the variation in thrust caused by changing fuel. The rocket manages to reach the space but three out of five engines shut down and couldn’t complete the mission. The rupturing of the fuel line in the engine igniters is considered as the valid reason of the failure.

5. Gemini 9A, 28th February 1966

Gemini 9A, 28th February 1966Photo credit Etsy

On a training day, the crew of the Gemini 9A was killed during a fail attempt to land the spaceship. They were trying to land it in bad weather. They crashed into the McDonnell Aircraft factory near the airport. In the crash landing, both crew members died. There is no real explanation about this accident but this has a large impact on space shuttle launch missions.

4. Soyuz 1, 24th April 1967

Soyuz 1, 24th April 1967Photo credit Astronautix

Soyuz 1 was a one day spaceflight mission of the Soviet Space Program. After successfully completed 18 rounds of the earth’s orbit, the flight was affected by some technical problems. Due to the parachute failure, the spaceflight crashed on the ground and a crew member, Vladimir Komarov died. This was the first fatality in the flight in the history of spaceflights. Several sources claim that the crashed was caused by the parachute malfunction.

3. Salyut Space Station, 30th June 1971

Salyut Space Station, 30th June 1971Photo credit Wikimedia

Soyuz 11 was the only manned mission on the first space station i.e. Salyut space station. A crew (of three members) was killed after a cabin went open during preparation for reentry from the space station to spaceflight. It was the first and only case when human died outside the earth’s atmosphere. The crew members were Georgi DobroVolski, Viktor Patsayev and Vladislav Volkov. A recovery team was sent to the space to find their bodies. A report states that all three members died of asphyxiation, a problem in respiration.

2. Challenger, 28th January 1986

Challenger, 28th January 1986Photo credit Wikimedia

The space shuttle challenger was blown off 73 seconds after the launch. Many people around the world were watching it live on the television. The spaceship was completely destroyed and all seven crew members were killed. More than half of the spaceship’s parts were never recovered from the site. A team of investigators found a faulty o-ring that passes hot gases from the booster to the fuel tank.

1 Columbia, 1st February 2003

Columbia-1st-February-2003 - Space Shuttle Launch FailuresPhoto credit Wikimedia

The space shuttle Columbia disaster was the most recent and one of the deadliest space launch failures. The shuttle was destroyed during re-entry in the earth’s atmosphere and all seven crew members died on board. It is estimated that the foam insulation was breaking away from the fuel tank at the time of launch. Investigators found the damage in thermal protection system which led to the structural failure. The space shuttle broke apart and the dead bodies were recovered in lumps all over the site.

Written by
Varun Kumar

I am a professional technology and business research analyst with more than a decade of experience in the field. My main areas of expertise include software technologies, business strategies, competitive analysis, and staying up-to-date with market trends.

I hold a Master's degree in computer science from GGSIPU University. If you'd like to learn more about my latest projects and insights, please don't hesitate to reach out to me via email at [email protected].

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