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posted by martyb on Thursday January 20, @02:59PM   Printer-friendly
from the sls-spice-must-flow dept.

NASA safety panel recommends agency review how it manages human spaceflight programs

[...] The shift to commercial crew transportation has created some specific issues in the last year mentioned in the report. The panel cited a "concerning dissonance" between NASA and SpaceX during preparations for the Crew-1 landing last May. The two organizations "differed in their understanding of the level of risk to be incurred" regarding a nighttime landing of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, with NASA initially preferring a daytime landing as the lowest risk option. SpaceX argued that a nighttime landing was acceptable and offered better sea state conditions than the proposed daytime landing. The report stated that "last-minute communications had been necessary to ensure NASA approved the plans for the night landing."

There was also a difference of opinion between NASA and Boeing involving the risk of stuck propulsion valves on the company's CST-100 Starliner that delayed an uncrewed test flight last summer. Boeing evaluated the risk as low, the panel said, while NASA considered it moderate during a flight readiness review. That review, the panel concluded, "revealed NASA and Boeing do not share a common understanding of how to assess and characterize risk."

[...] The panel also took issue with the "disaggregated" way NASA's exploration efforts are organized. That structure treats the Space Launch System, Orion spacecraft and Exploration Ground Systems as separate programs, which the panel attributes to the uncertain direction of the agency's exploration programs after the cancellation of the Constellation program more than a decade ago.

Among the panel's recommendations was to create an integrated Artemis program led by a single manager "endowed with authority, responsibility, and accountability" along with a bottoms-up approach to systems engineering and integration as well as risk management. NASA sometimes refers to an "Artemis program" today, the panel noted, but without the formal program architecture that risks "confusing both employees and contractors about who is ultimately responsible and accountable."

It might help NASA if Congress would stop treating it like a jobs program.


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  • (Score: 2, Informative) by mcgrew on Thursday January 20, @04:20PM (5 children)

    by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Thursday January 20, @04:20PM (#1214203) Homepage Journal

    Boeing has a track record of killing hundreds of people when their airplanes crashed. To be fair, I don't think any airline is free of past deaths, and neither is NASA. So far, SpaceX hasn't killed anybody. Yet.

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  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, @05:04PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, @05:04PM (#1214222)

    More importantly, both Boeing and NASA have killed people through blatant, reckless mismanagement, and are probably going to kill more that way. While there is no doubt that SpaceX will experience casualties at some point there is no sign of that with them. On the contrary, they are perfectly willing to expend hardware to make their manned program safer and have even improved the state of the art at least twice through rigorous testing.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, @06:08PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, @06:08PM (#1214250)

    SpaceX has a track record of blaming rocket failures on deliberate sabotage employing high powered sniper rifles. But to be fair, I don't think any rocket vendor is free of past behavior. In fact, didn't the McDonnell Atlas-1 blow up because a Lockheed guy shot it with a bazooka?

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, @06:42PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, @06:42PM (#1214269)

    Unless the same Boeing people and divisions are involved, you can't drag the 737 stuff into the argument, and you can't integrate the accidents over 60 years of history and compare it one to one with SpaceX's relatively few. If you want to do that, you should drag into the argument Musk's abject failures, such as with SolarCity and the Boring Company, and tack them onto the SpaceX track record. If you want to compare the number of SpaceX aircraft deaths to Boeing, then you might as well suggest that SpaceX should split their NASA money with that the company from that other story from today (the one that is about building a direct to orbit plane) because they haven't killed anyone in an airplane accident either. I'd suggest that almost everyone here cannot comment on the internal interpersonal dynamics of SpaceX to know realistically whether a down the line engineer can veto decisions based upon their comfort level with something, particularly after complacency sets in. That's the kind of thing that comes out after the fact during a disaster investigation.

    The general consensus expressed by most comments so far is "no, you should not just blindly accept their word, but I fully trust them." If people don't understand what is wrong with that sentence, they need to think about it a bit harder. The report is correct noting it is a problem if NASA and SpaceX don't agree on what the lowest risk option is, but it is disappointing that the solution deemed acceptable here is let SpaceX call the shots because "we haven't killed anyone yet!"

    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday January 21, @02:28PM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday January 21, @02:28PM (#1214490) Journal

      The general consensus expressed by most comments so far is "no, you should not just blindly accept their word, but I fully trust them."

      Your straw men are so well-behaved. They don't poo on the carpet much.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 21, @11:40PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 21, @11:40PM (#1214663)

      Boeing's problems start with upper management and affect both their aircraft and spacecraft divisions. This is a systemic issue.

      SpaceX's solution is acceptable because they were correct and NASA's analysis was flawed. This has been a recurring problem because of internal dysfunction within NASA that NASA's Office of Safety, Reliability and Quality Assurance was created to address after Challenger, but as the Columbia disaster demonstrated, the OSRQA has been a complete failure.