2019 Human Performance, Root Cause, & Trending (HPRCT) Conference
June 17-21, 2019
Cheyenne Mountain Resort
Colorado Springs, Colorado
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Thursday, June 20 • 4:00pm - 4:50pm
Managing Risk in Human Space Flight with High Reliability and Resilience as Foundational Factors

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Managing risk in human space flight programs has evolved greatly since America celebrated Alan Shepard’s historic flight into space in 1961. By the time of the Apollo program, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had firmly established the use of quantitative risk assessment methodologies, and eventually moved towards decision making approaches based on qualitative risk factors. Among these factors were: • Reviews of all significant equipment modifications, • Identifying single point failures in systems and components, • Reviews of all launch vehicle and spacecraft systems tests results, • Reviews of significant failures and corrective actions, and • Reviews of unsolved problems (Fragola, 1996). As U.S. human space flight moved into the Space Shuttle era, managing risk continued to focus on hardware and software, but also encompassed human factors related to mishaps and close calls. Not how the human-machine interface might be flawed, but what the operator or maintainer did or didn’t do to cause a high reliability system or component to fail. This included, especially in the tragic Shuttle Challenger and Columbia accidents, management’s role in contributing factors of the failures of this complex launch system. Now, on the eve of the great private space race, the risks of space travel shift from the government as a customer of one to private citizens as the customers of many. With lenient safety regulations governing the private space industry, space flight participants (the people who pay to play) are required to sign waivers of liability should the launch provider injure or kill them during their suborbital or orbital adventure. And, in a profit-driven environment, space transportation providers may be expected to operate as lean as possible in order to maximize profits and further expand their base of operations. For this reason, safety and mission assurance academics and specialists, especially those with a pedigree in human space flight, have become the champions for influencing the industry to integrate organizational resiliency and high reliability in their risk management programs and practices. In order to move from reactive to proactive safety management, the new generation of space transportation entities must be able to identify the key ingredients that ensure resources are allocated to accommodate the unexpected events, with risk management woven into the cultural fabric of the organization (Perera, 2011). Not just for crisis management, resilience allows organizations to maintain a high level of performance even when the operational tempo or environment imparts pressure on the teams, when issues crop up and uncertainties begin to grow (Boin & van Eeten, 2013). High reliability organizations ensure that expertise is not necessarily matched with a chain of command, allowing operators to expect even the unexpected, to facilitate an informed culture, with clarity around roles and responsibilities and expertise (Scubert, Arbinger & Morena, 2016). This paper will document the evolution of human space flight risk management in terms of the growing influence and interconnectedness of high reliability, resiliency, and safety culture, particularly moving from the Space Shuttle Program and ground operations, to the rapid growth of the private space transportation and tourism industry.

avatar for Tim Riley

Tim Riley

Program Lead - Scaled Wind Farm Technology (SWiFT) Facility, Sandia National Labs
I have a passion for safety of people and programs that has grown over 30 years of aviation and aerospace adventures. From turning wrenches on helicopters, to being part of the incredible Space Shuttle launch and landing teams, to corporate safety in new wind farm construction, to... Read More →

Thursday June 20, 2019 4:00pm - 4:50pm MDT

Attendees (7)