Spaceflight - Reducing the Risks

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K.M. Wright (2002), JBIS, 55, 165-172

Refcode: 2002.55.165
Keywords: Risk assessment, risk management, waiver, qualification, certification

Space systems are uniquely characterized by: the large amounts of energy which they contain and control; limited failure tolerance and performance margins; complex system design; an extremely dynamic operational regime; hostile operating environments; and to some extent by the application of immature technologies. As a consequence, the level of safety risk to which astronauts are currently exposed is approximately the same as that applicable for aviation test pilots. This level of risk would be clearly unacceptable for popular commercial human spaceflight to be successful. Furthermore the risk of loss or failure for automated spaceflight is presently at a similar, if not higher, level than that associated with human spaceflight. This paper compares some current approaches to spaceflight dependability (safety and reliability) with that of the commercial aviation industry, and makes proposals for a practical and cost effective risk reduction and certification process which could be applied to both human and automatic spaceflight.

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