Date of Award

5-2012

Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Aeronautics

Department

Applied Aviation Sciences

Committee Chair

MaryJo O. Smith, Ph.D.

First Committee Member

Mahmut Reyhanoglu, Ph.D.

Second Committee Member

Juhe Chittenden, Ph.D.

Third Committee Member

Isaac Martines

Fourth Committee Member

William MacKunis, Ph.D.

Abstract

Commercial aviation and commercial space similarly launch, fly, and land passenger vehicles. Unlike aviation, the U.S. government has not established maintenance policies for commercial space. This study conducted a mixed methods review of 610 U.S. space launches from 1984 through 2011, which included 31 failures. An analysis of the failure causal factors showed that human error accounted for 76% of those failures, which included workmanship error accounting for 29% of the failures. With the imminent future of commercial space travel, the increased potential for the loss of human life demands that changes be made to the standardized procedures, training, and certification to reduce human error and failure rates. Several recommendations were made by this study to the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation, space launch vehicle operators, and maintenance technician schools in an effort to increase the safety of the space transportation passengers.

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