Jim Cast Headquarters, Washington, DC (Phone: 202/358-1779

)

January 7, 1997

Dom Amatore Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL (Phone: 205/544-0031) Release: 97-3 CLIPPER GRAHAM INCIDENT REPORT RELEASED An unconnected hose led to the destruction of the Clipper Graham technology demonstrator last summer. The Clipper Graham (DC-XA) Incident Investigation Board has released its final report concerning the July 31 post-landing tip-over and fire which destroyed the 43-foot vertical takeoff and landing vehicle at White Sands Missile Range, NM. The Board, Chaired by former Astronaut Vance Brand, concluded "The primary cause of the vehicle mishap was that the brake line on the helium pneumatic system for landing gear #2 was not connected. This unconnected brake line prevented the brake mechanism from being pressurized to release the brake and resulted in landing gear #2 not extending. The vehicle became unstable upon landing, toppled onto its side, exploded and burned." The July 31 flight demonstration was the fourth in last summer's series of tests with Clipper Graham by NASA and its industry partner, McDonnell Douglas. The vehicle flew the planned flight profile successfully and uneventfully until landing. With landing gear #2 failing to deploy -- there were four landing gears on Clipper Graham -- the vehicle tipped over and, according to the report, "The Clipper Graham DC-XA vehicle was totally destroyed by ground impact and ensuing explosions and fires." Contributing causes of the mishap were identified as follows: o Design of the system for gear stowage required McDonnell Douglas technicians to break the integrity of the helium brake line after integrity had been already verified. No other check

was conducted to re-verify the integrity of the system after disconnection and reconnection of the line was completed; o Landing gear stowage was never identified as a critical process. No special steps were taken to ensure the readiness of this system for flight; o During the gear stowage process, there was no record of checking off steps or evidence of cross-checking; o Distraction or interruption of the mechanical technician during gear stowage operations may have contributed to the nonconnection of the brake line. Gary E. Payton, NASA's Director of Space Transportation, commended the Board's thorough review of the incident. "Even though the Clipper Graham Program itself is now behind us, the technology demonstrations from last summer's four flights were outstanding. ÔLessons learned' from the Board's report, and the observations and recommendations made will play an important role in the Agency's continuing Reusable Launch Vehicle activities. In the X-33 and X-34 programs, for example, cost reduction and efficient reusability will continue to be our major objectives, along with safety and reliability that the proper mix of automation and human control can deliver." The five member Board consisted of Chairman Vance Brand, Dryden Flight Research Center, CA; George Hopson, Marshall Space Flight Center, AL; Charles E. Harris, Langley Research Center, VA; Lt. Col. David Sharp, USAF Safety Center, NM; and Warren Wiley, Kennedy Space Center, FL. - end NOTE TO EDITORS: The Report's two page Executive Summary plus a three page section dealing with Causes, Findings, Observations and Recommendations are available, electronically, via the Internet at URL: ftp://ftp.hq.nasa.gov/pub/pao/statrpt/msfc/cgistatus/cg.txt The full 160 page report, with appendices, is available for review in the NASA Headquarters and Marshall Space Flight Center newsrooms.