Safety Design for Space System, the recommended reading for graduate level courses in space safety.

Welcome back to Space Safety Magazine! Space safety is about manned as well as unmanned missions. It is not only about space vehicle design and astronaut safety, but includes spaceport operations; space traffic management; ground, atmospheric, and on-orbit pollution prevention; and safety of uninvolved public during launch and reentry operations. Space safety is also about specific technical legal, insurance, and regulatory matters. Finally, it is a national as well as and international matter.

Awareness is growing in industry and the general public, but dedicated education, training, and communication opportunities are basically non-existent. Training is different from education. The US Air Force as well as a number of high technology organizations clearly make a key distinction between the concepts of education and training.

We accept the concept that education is “instruction and study focused on creative problem solving that does not provide predictable outcomes. Education encompasses a broader flow of information to the student and encourages exploration into unknown areas and creative problem solving.” We also accept that training can be defined as “instruction and study focused on a structured skill set to acquire consistent performance. Training has predictable outcomes and when outcomes do not meet expectations, further training is required.”

On the one hand, education requires more time to complete and often culminates with an original research endeavour, especially when we are talking about graduate level education. Such an educational program prepares individuals for careers and includes practice in critical and creative thinking that will in many ways last throughout a career. On the other hand, training is much more short term and typically takes days to a week or two to complete.

Space safety design criteria, methods, and hazard analysis techniques are not generally taught in depth in aerospace engineering schools since up to now they have not been considered as part of a specialized branch of space systems engineering but rather as aspects of various specialist fields of engineering (e.g. in relation to pressure systems, avionics design, etc.). Both manned programs (Shuttle, ISS) and unmanned programs (ELV payloads) clearly demanded formation of a new technical profile, the safety engineer, to support and execute the design safety certification process. These engineers had to gain system knowledge as well as a broad understanding of multidisciplinary
safety aspects so as to be able to perform integrated analyses.

The engineers initially selected for the tasks had a variety of backgrounds and no dedicated training. They developed their knowledge through internal information exchanges, brainstorming, discussions, short seminars, and so on. Later, experienced safety engineers taught the newcomers in a sort of master-to-apprentice relationship in combination with safety process training courses of a few days duration.

Concurrently, the systems engineering community became increasingly aware that safety had to be designedin from the very beginning or risk costs escalation, a huge pile of (unjustifiable) waivers, and ultimately devastating accidents.

The need is also arising for education in aerospace  operations safety, covering all aspects from launch safety, to on-orbit traffic management, and re-entry safety. Operations safety will require knowledge of rules and methods for on-orbit environment protection such as space debris mitigation, and remediation.

In future, space and aviation will share more and more common operational interests due to emerging hybrid systems like suborbital space-planes and the operational use of space-based systems for air navigation, aviation communication, and high resolution weather forecasts.

Only a few elements of knowledge in the space safety field are currently available at universities. Therefore, we are glad to announce that the International Space Safety Foundation (ISSF) in cooperation with the International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety (IAASS) is launching the creation of a cooperative network this year. The network is to include universities and experts from industry and agencies. Called “International Institute for Space Safety,” it will offer graduate and postgraduate education opportunities in all space safety technical fields.

Best Regards,

Frederick D. Gregory, ISSF Board Chairman
Tommaso Sgobba, IAASS President

If you are interested in being a part of this ambitious project or you would like more information, please go to our web site and provide us contact information so that we can answer your questions and get back to you.