A few more kicks needed for "Safe is Not an Option"
November 30 2012 10:16:14 PM |
The crowd-funding campaign to support publishing Rand Simberg's book on spaceflight safety policy has gotten two thirds of the way to its goal: Safe Is Not An Option: Our Futile Obsession In Spaceflight by Rand Simberg — Kickstarter.
However, there are only five days left so kick in some support to get him over the top.
The book, which started out as a paper but soon grew beyond that, begins with a review of the history of risks taken and sacrifices made in exploring and settling the globe and in furthering the scientific frontier. This is followed by a discussion of the high death tolls in transportation systems such as automobiles and aircraft. Rand then describes the 1960s Space Race era when dramatically dangerous missions such as the Apollo 8 flight to the Moon were made, all because of the tremendous national priority given to taking this high battlefield of the Cold War.
Things changed, though, with the Shuttle, particularly after the Challenger accident. Without a Cold War to win or a national will to settle the High Frontier, safety itself became "priority number one" for NASA and Congress. The contradictions and confusion engendered by this mentality are detailed in the chapter on the Constellation program. Existing reliable rockets flown without a serious failure were rejected for crew transport on the grounds of safety and replaced with a brand new rocket that turned out to have serious safety issues yet would have been too expensive to test fly more than once before carrying a crew.
The safety obsession became particularly absurd when NASA made contingency plans to abandon the $100 billion ISS after a failed launch of a Russian Progress cargo vehicle threatened to ground Soyuz crew vehicles as well. There were several "risky" alternatives to leaving the station uncrewed but no more so than the risky actions taken daily on earth by firemen and others to protect high value facilities. Rand also looks at a similar situation earlier when former NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe decided to cancel the repair and upgrade mission for the Hubble telescope. This was eventually reversed because "the public’s irrational devotion to a telescope overcame NASA’s (and Congress’s) irrational obsession with avoidance of astronaut deaths".
One way all this impacts NewSpace involves the frequent attempts to use irrational safety policies and standards to derail the agency's commercial crew program. Rand reviews the debate over the safety of crew transport to LEO and to deep space.
Another way this could hit NewSpace is if FAA is pushed to treat new commercial spaceflight as a mature technology like aviation. Rand highlights the flaws with that by examining the design diversity of the first generation of commercial space passenger vehicles such as the XCOR Lynx, Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo and Armadillo's vertical take off and landing vehicles. He subsequently reviews the current FAA commercial spaceflight regulatory regime and how it might best evolve. He concludes the book with a set of recommendations regarding NASA and FAA policies towards spaceflight safety and commercial operations.
The D.C. Govt./Mainstream aerospace industry and community hold dear to a number of flawed paradigms that have fossilized into stone, e.g. the cost to orbit will always be $10k/pound, fully reusable launch vehicles are impossible, a NASA designed super heavy lifter is required for deep space missions, and safety is the only priority for crew spaceflight. This book is a welcomed sledgehammer to pound that latter dogma to dust.