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The right stuff ‘v’ the right (safe) thing

Quinn, A. & Sikora, I. (2016). The right stuff ‘v’ the right (safe) thing. Paper presented at the 8th International Space Safety Conference, 18-20 May 2016, Florida, USA.


This is not the 1950’s where test pilots needed the ‘right stuff’ and certainly not the beginning of aviation where the Wright brother’s early designs needed pilots with more than the right stuff. In those formative years of aviation and jet development, designers and pilots did not have the same design understanding and knowledge that we have today. In addition, they did not have the same understanding and knowledge of Systems Safety engineering and Human Factors expertise that we have today. Manned suborbital flights of today should be undertaken in vehicles that have been designed effectively with appropriately derived safety requirements including fault-tolerance, safe life and design-for-minimum risk approaches – and all to an acceptable level of safety. Therefore, although initial suborbital pilots will originate from flight test schools and still possess similar traits to their earlier test pilot brethren, they should be protected by the right (safe) thing by design and analysis rather than rely on the right stuff due to ineffective design and operating procedures. The paper presents a review of the SpaceShip2 accident as a case study to highlight the right (safe) things that should be considered in the design, analysis and operations for suborbital operators. The authors of this paper contend that suborbital piloted vehicles should be designed with the knowledge and understanding and lessons learned from those early X-plane flights, lessons learned from general space safety, lessons learned from pilot Human Factors/Crew Resource Management training and by understanding that safety management and safety engineering are essential disciplines that should be integrated with the design team from the concept phase.

Publication Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Departments: School of Science & Technology > Engineering
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