Failure analysis of an aluminum sandwich panel skin from the space shuttle Columbia
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A failure analysis was carried out on the skin of a 2000-series aluminum sandwich panel from the space shuttle Columbia. Light optical microscopy and scanning electron microscopy were used in determining the mode of failure. Analysis of the fracture surface indicated that the skin failed intergranularly. Second-phase particles present in the microstructure liquefied upon heating and subsequently wet the aluminum grain boundaries. The skin was shown to have failed by the liquation of the iron- and manganese-rich particles only along the edges of the failed panel, suggesting that local heating—termed “hotspots”—was the cause of failure of the aluminum sandwich panel.
Keywordsaluminum hot spots inclusions liquation tiles
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