City Research Online

Examining the Influence of Safety Management in the Personal Spaceflight Industry

Quinn, Charles Andrew (2012). Examining the Influence of Safety Management in the Personal Spaceflight Industry. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


Suborbital flights will soon take flight as a viable commercial operation. Operators such as Virgin Galactic, along with their designer Scaled Composites, will be responsible for safety of the flight crew, Spaceflight Participants and indeed the uninvolved public beneath their flight trajectories. Within the United States, the Federal Aviation Authority’s Office of Commercial Transportation (FAA-AST) has provided Launch License Regulations and Guidelines for prospective design organisations and operators alike. The aim of this thesis is to analyse suborbital spaceflight approaches to safety management and to determine whether effective safety management is being or could be applied to influence vehicle design and subsequent operation. The thesis provides a review of current safety-related information on suborbital spaceflight, existing space safety information and also existing aviation safety information. The findings of the review concern two main areas; firstly that a gap exists within suborbital safety management criteria, and secondly that a gap exists in existing aviation-based safety guidelines. In the first case, the research concluded that FAA-AST safety management criteria did not present sufficiently explicit and rationalised guidelines for this new industry. Indeed, the thesis argues that the scope of the FAA-AST regulations (covering both orbital and suborbital aspects) is too broad, and that regulations and guidelines should be split into distinct orbital and suborbital sections so as to provide more effective directives. In Europe, no such regulations or guidelines exist as there has until now been no requirement (a ‘customer’) for the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to implement such a framework. This thesis sought to address this gap by using a safety tool (Goal Structuring Notation) to construct a goal-based regulatory approach, which was included in a draft EASA suborbital Policy. Secondly, the main significant finding of this research is that a gap (literally) exists between current aviation-based design organisation safety guidelines and operator safety risk management guidelines. This absence of communication means operators are not managing their safety risks as effectively as they could. The thesis argues that the suborbital domain should take heed, as most vehicles are based on aircraft designs and therefore suborbital operators will, no doubt, apply ‘best practice’ either from the aviation or commercial space domains. Neither is appropriate or effective. As a result of the main finding a contiguous safety model has been developed which employs a ‘key (platform) hazard’ to join the design organisation analysis to the operator safety risk management, therefore completing an explicit sequence from the initiating causal event to the accident. The model is demonstrated using case studies from space disasters (Space Shuttle) and also from aviation accidents (Air France flight AF447); the model details the explicit accident sequence and shows missing or failed controls leading up to the accident. The research enabled models to be constructed and also proposed additional and explicit guidelines for the suborbital industry such as medical and training standards and separate safety criteria for vertical launch vehicles; these are included as recommendations and need to be ratified by recognised bodies such as the International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety’s Suborbital Space Safety Technical Committee for inclusion in their Space Safety Standards Manual. In the latter case these recommendations are already agenda items for the Technical Committee to address.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: © 2012 Charles Andrew Quinn
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD61 Risk Management
T Technology > TL Motor vehicles. Aeronautics. Astronautics
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Science & Technology > Engineering
School of Science & Technology > School of Science & Technology Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of PhD_Thesis_Quinn_C_A__Examining_the_Influence_of_Safety_Management_in_the_Private_Spaceflight_Industry.pdf]
Download (5MB) | Preview


Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login