[FPSPACE] Spaceflight is a dangerous business

David Portree dsfportree at hotmail.com
Sat Nov 1 01:24:28 EDT 2014

Absolutely, but spaceflight can be made safer through good design. The more boring a design is, the safer it tends to be. Novel concepts invite catastrophe. SpaceShip Two is pretty, but its design and operational characteristics are complex. 
The Space Shuttle was also a novel design. We hyped it & spun it and eventually Challenger forced us to face the bald fact that it was so complex and contained so many design compromises that flying it could never be routine. 
Some people have developed the peculiar notion that, because inexperienced private entities are developing spacecraft, often with novel features, the hard facts of spaceflight do not and will not apply. My hope is that this week's twin accidents will serve as a wake-up call. 
It's not enough to say "spaceflight is dangerous." What we need to say is "spaceflight is dangerous - so are our designs and schemes realistic?"

David S. F. Portree
author and stuff
dsfportree at hotmail.com
dportree at usgs.gov

From: pjp961 at svol.net
To: fpspace at friends-partners.org
Date: Fri, 31 Oct 2014 15:32:54 -0400
Subject: [FPSPACE] Spaceflight is a dangerous business

Spaceflight is a dangerous business.


All vehicles, payloads are experimental.  


There is this concept of “assured access to space,”
but overall this phrasing doesn’t cover up the fact that spaceflight is a
dangerous business.


People die.  Vehicles blow up.


What amazes me (if I am recollecting correctly) is that in
actual launch and mission operations, from 1961 to 1971, we suffered four
casualties (deaths); from 1971 to 1981, none; from 1981 to 1991, six more; from
1991 to 2001, none; from 2001 to 2011, six more.  All of these in
near-Earth orbit.


In training, my number recollections are a bit more murky. 
Maybe someone else can provide all training exercise deaths (ground/flight
training/etc.) over each ten year period.

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