A preliminary review of the data recorder recovered from the Space Shuttle Columbia debris indicates potential data may exist up to the point where the orbiter broke up. A "time tag" observed during duplication of the recorder tape confirms some type of imprint exists until 14:00.18 GMT, just seconds before break-up, after which the tape is blank. Review of the data begins this week. The orbiter experiments (OEX) recorder, unique to Columbia, logged data from 721 pressure, temperature and load sensors on the airframe, including the left wing, which was breached during re-entry, normally running for 30min during ascent and 1h on re-entry. Tests of external-tank foam insulation impacts against suspect wing thermal-protection panels begin next week.

Source: Flight International