January 16, 2003 dawned clear and crisp along the central Florida Atlantic coast line as the space shuttle Columbia thundered off from launch pad 39a toward the sky. A few hours later, engineers reviewing high definition videos of the launch spotted a basketball size piece of hard foam, weighing an estimated 5 pounds, tear loose from a fuel tank assembly about 80 seconds after lift-off.

Although foam tearing loose from the space shuttle vehicle throughout the launch process had been a common occurrence, this instance alarmed the engineers: they could tell the foam had slammed into the leading edge of the shuttle’s left wing. A 5-pound piece of foam thrown at the side of a car would cause hardly any damage. But torn from the shuttle already traveling nearly 3000 miles per hour and accelerating to its cruising speed of 18,000 mph, that piece of foam could do serious damage.

Even before Columbia reached its orbit, NASA had started experimenting with a shuttle simulator in a hangar, firing large pieces of foam at the test vehicle at high speed. Still, they were not able to predict Columbia’s disintegrating in a long path from Texas, across Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

In the months that followed, NASA contacted us about our specialized manufacturing-quality-control version of our Artificial Intelligence Business Assessment Engine. Many copies of this software were shipped to their key vendors to confirm that critical components were manufactured to strict quality guidelines. It helped NASA and their vendors identify and standardize the different manufacturing processes in the space shuttle fuel tanks and external assemblies.

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This particular video is of a launch of the Discovery in 2011 and it does a great job of showing just how incredible and awe-inspiring a shuttle launch was.

Even before Columbia reached its orbit, NASA was already setting up experiments with a shuttle simulator in a hangar, firing large pieces of foam at the test vehicle at high speed.

We all know the outcome, culminating in the Columbia disintegrating in a long path from Texas, across Lousiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

In the months that followed, NASA contacted us to create and use a specialized ‘manufacturing quality control’ version of our Artificial Intelligence Business Assessment Engine, to help them identify and standardize the different manufacturing processes in the space shuttle fuel tanks and external assemblies. Approximately 1000 copies of this software was shipped to key vendors to confirm that critical components were manufactured to strict quality guidelines.