This Day in Space History: Challenger Disaster

January 28, 1986

"Challenger was destroyed in the second minute of STS-51-L, the orbiter's tenth mission, on January 28, 1986 at 11:38:00 a.m. EST ("51-L".), when an O-ring seal on its right solid rocket booster (SRB) failed. The O-rings failed to seal due to a variety of factors, including unusually cold temperatures. This failure allowed a plume of flame to leak out of the SRB and impinge on both the external fuel tank (ET) and SRB aft attachment strut. This caused both structural failure of the ET and the SRB pivoting into the orbiter and ET. The vehicle assembly then broke apart under aerodynamic loads."

Wikipedia Article

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