Author Topic: Is Commercial Crew Dangerous?  (Read 17427 times)

Offline Endeavour_01

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Re: Is Commercial Crew Dangerous?
« Reply #20 on: 08/12/2017 12:11 AM »
To be fair NASA has been launching humans into space since the 1960s. I don't think anyone should be "skeptical" about NASA's ability to launch humans.

Except for the fact that "NASA" doesn't do everything, it depends on the private sector to design, build, test, and in some case manage spaceflight operations for NASA. The last I looked 85% of NASA budget was used to pay contractors to do things for NASA.

I'm not an idiot Ron. I know that NASA uses private contractors. I was talking about the traditional approach to manned spaceflight used by NASA (i.e. "NASA owned"). Aside from a couple of flights from SpaceShip One that approach has been the only way humans have launched from U.S. Soil. To say that you have to have an equal amount of skepticism for an organization that has been doing this for 50 years vs. organizations that are just starting out is ludicrous.

Look I am a fan of commercial crew. I am looking forward to them with a passion. I go out of my way to inform people about it and point out all the wonderful possibilities that it brings to the space program. That said, I can understand people being skeptical. It is a normal reaction to something new. From the quotes I have read it doesn't seem that Pace has (or had) an unhealthy amount of skepticism towards commercial crew or treated it unfairly compared to NASA programs.

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So again, Mr. Pace seemed like he was being selective in his criticism, and purposely ignoring any comparisons to NASA's track records.

Pace was being asked specifically about commercial crew. He gave his opinion on commercial crew. He is not required to talk about SLS when the question was about commercial crew. Again I would have preferred that Mr. Berger had asked him directly, "What do you think about crew flying on EM-1 or EM-2" vs. just speculating about Mr. Pace's views on the subject.

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Out of the three human-rated spacecraft, Orion, Spaceliner & Dragon Crew, Dragon has the most direct operational lineage since it is directly evolved from the Dragon Cargo spacecraft and it will be flying on an evolved version of the Falcon 9. Even Starliner will be flying on a proven launcher.

Yes Ron I understand that SLS will be less flight tested than Atlas V or F9 (although RS-25, RL-10, and other components are well understood and have been rigorously tested). My point was about Orion and Dragon 2. Yes, Dragon 2 has a lot of lineage from Dragon 1 (although you could also argue that there a good amount of Apollo heritage in Orion). That said, both capsules will fly one test flight (Dragon 2 Demo 1 and Orion EM-1) before crews are put on them. I have never heard Pace criticize the plan for Dragon 2 so I fail to see how he is hypocritical for, presumably, backing crew on EM-2.
I cheer for both NASA and commercial space. For SLS, Orion, Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, Dragon, Starliner, Cygnus and all the rest!
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Online Chris Bergin

Re: Is Commercial Crew Dangerous?
« Reply #21 on: 08/12/2017 12:50 AM »
Ok, so people still want to post on here.

Unlocked, but the following posts better be award winners or it's getting locked again ;)

Offline woods170

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Re: Is Commercial Crew Dangerous?
« Reply #22 on: 08/12/2017 06:55 PM »
Ok, so people still want to post on here.

Unlocked, but the following posts better be award winners or it's getting locked again ;)
Well, Chris unlocked this thread and sure enough the thread has remained quiet for the next 18 hours. That, and the fact that the award winning post is reply #3, should be enough to consign this thread to the archives section. But heck, that's just my $0.02.

Offline MattMason

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Re: Is Commercial Crew Dangerous?
« Reply #23 on: 08/12/2017 08:40 PM »
My thoughts:

"Dangerous?" The first two American manned space projects (and I believe all of the Russian spaceflights) barely tamed ballistic missiles that statistically exploded or veered off-course long before they met their objectives. The rockets meant to test and then launch spacecraft to the moon were more man-rated with all the lessons learned.

To think that either CC manufacturer hasn't added and implemented sufficiently reliable LAS and have reliable launch vehicles (particularly ULA) is a bit silly. Shall we remember that the last NASA launch vehicle had no such thing out of hubris in thinking that spaceplanes were airplanes?

I think the least safe instance for the crews on either will be the time before launch. Same for Apollo. I think, also, these two companies have more to prove than the agency they're making them for.
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Offline QuantumG

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Re: Is Commercial Crew Dangerous?
« Reply #24 on: 08/12/2017 09:40 PM »
Spaceflight fatality rate is around 1.4% (death per person-flight), or 3.3% (deaths vs total nr of astronauts).

[..]

the sample is quite small (less than 1000 spaceflights)

... and this is for going around in circles. Once humans start going out into the solar system and doing productive work we'll see even more deaths. Hopefully by then astronauts won't be national heroes any more.
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Offline Rocket Science

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Re: Is Commercial Crew Dangerous?
« Reply #25 on: 08/14/2017 02:14 PM »
The term dangerous is very "fluidic" and what was deemed so becomes the norm over time no matter what type of mechanical conveyance... Read your history folks...
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Offline Blackstar

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Re: Is Commercial Crew Dangerous?
« Reply #26 on: 08/15/2017 01:18 AM »
The term dangerous is very "fluidic" and what was deemed so becomes the norm over time no matter what type of mechanical conveyance... Read your history folks...

Except that you may have the arrows pointed the wrong way.

Yeah, lots of new mechanical conveyances were labeled "dangerous" by somebody when they were introduced. That's where the old joke "Get a horse!" comes from.

But most of them were dangerous when introduced, and over time, they got safer because people insisted that they become safer. We no longer accept the levels of safety for transportation vehicles that we accepted even 20 years ago. There was a recent crash test of a brand new car and (I think) a 1998 car and the brand new car was far safer. Airbags, crumple zones, etc. all are better than 20 years ago.

You could look at aviation safety as well. The statistics are all available. Take a look at military aviation. If you've read The Right Stuff or books about test pilots in the 1950s and fighter pilots in the same era you know that they all knew guys who died in crashes. Military aviation had high accident and fatality rates in the 1950s and even the 1960s. And then those rates started to drop and drop fast. Now the number of military aircraft fatalities in the U.S. military is quite small.

Even naval aviation got a lot safer. I think it was around 1988/89 that U.S. naval aviation, which is inherently more risky than conventional aviation (because you're landing on that tiny postage stamp of moving steel in a big cold ocean) reached safety rates equivalent to the U.S. Air Force. And they did it through incredible effort. There's a new book out by Robert F. Dunn, "Gear Up, Mishaps Down: The Evolution of Naval Aviation Safety, 1950-2000," that goes into this in detail. The U.S. Navy didn't simply say "This is dangerous, accidents happen, it's okay for people to die." They worked on the issue and they increased safety.

American society does not accept the same fatality rates that it did in the past, not in civilian transportation or the military.
« Last Edit: 08/15/2017 01:19 AM by Blackstar »

Offline Lar

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Re: Is Commercial Crew Dangerous?
« Reply #27 on: 08/15/2017 01:28 AM »
American society does not accept the same fatality rates that it did in the past, not in civilian transportation or the military.
Nor should it. I think space is a bit farther behind but hopefully we'll see rates trending down there as well.
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Online yg1968

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Re: Is Commercial Crew Dangerous?
« Reply #28 on: 08/15/2017 01:37 AM »
It's different for rockets, you don't get thousands of test flights. Plus, rockets are inherently dangerous.

Offline Lar

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Re: Is Commercial Crew Dangerous?
« Reply #29 on: 08/15/2017 01:50 AM »
It's different for rockets, you don't get thousands of test flights. Plus, rockets are inherently dangerous.
True so far... but maybe within our lifetimes we see flight rates an order of magnitude or two higher...

And yes, they are.
"I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just hopefully not at the point of impact." -Elon Musk
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Offline Rocket Science

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Re: Is Commercial Crew Dangerous?
« Reply #30 on: 08/15/2017 02:01 AM »
The term dangerous is very "fluidic" and what was deemed so becomes the norm over time no matter what type of mechanical conveyance... Read your history folks...

Except that you may have the arrows pointed the wrong way.

Yeah, lots of new mechanical conveyances were labeled "dangerous" by somebody when they were introduced. That's where the old joke "Get a horse!" comes from.

But most of them were dangerous when introduced, and over time, they got safer because people insisted that they become safer. We no longer accept the levels of safety for transportation vehicles that we accepted even 20 years ago. There was a recent crash test of a brand new car and (I think) a 1998 car and the brand new car was far safer. Airbags, crumple zones, etc. all are better than 20 years ago.

You could look at aviation safety as well. The statistics are all available. Take a look at military aviation. If you've read The Right Stuff or books about test pilots in the 1950s and fighter pilots in the same era you know that they all knew guys who died in crashes. Military aviation had high accident and fatality rates in the 1950s and even the 1960s. And then those rates started to drop and drop fast. Now the number of military aircraft fatalities in the U.S. military is quite small.

Even naval aviation got a lot safer. I think it was around 1988/89 that U.S. naval aviation, which is inherently more risky than conventional aviation (because you're landing on that tiny postage stamp of moving steel in a big cold ocean) reached safety rates equivalent to the U.S. Air Force. And they did it through incredible effort. There's a new book out by Robert F. Dunn, "Gear Up, Mishaps Down: The Evolution of Naval Aviation Safety, 1950-2000," that goes into this in detail. The U.S. Navy didn't simply say "This is dangerous, accidents happen, it's okay for people to die." They worked on the issue and they increased safety.

American society does not accept the same fatality rates that it did in the past, not in civilian transportation or the military.
All good points but it still doesn't explain why the addition of the word "commercial" makes a LV and spacecraft "dangerous"... I'm thinking back to the old astronaut joke about the vehicle that they were sitting in was built by the lowest bidder in a traditional NASA run program..
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Offline Blackstar

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Re: Is Commercial Crew Dangerous?
« Reply #31 on: 08/15/2017 02:54 AM »
All good points but it still doesn't explain why the addition of the word "commercial" makes a LV and spacecraft "dangerous"... I'm thinking back to the old astronaut joke about the vehicle that they were sitting in was built by the lowest bidder in a traditional NASA run program..

It's not "the addition of the word 'commercial.'" It's the amount of insight and oversight during development. It's how many reviews, meetings, audits and tests are required.

You guys read these articles and draw your conclusions, but you lack the context and the knowledge of what is really being discussed. Government procurement isn't simply a signed piece of paper for a contract. There's a lot more going on. There's a whole level of involvement by the customer (i.e. the government) in the development, and that's what Dr. Pace was referring to.


Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: Is Commercial Crew Dangerous?
« Reply #32 on: 08/15/2017 03:53 AM »
It's not "the addition of the word 'commercial.'" It's the amount of insight and oversight during development. It's how many reviews, meetings, audits and tests are required.

I'm not a rocket engineer, so discount as desired...  ;)

Having worked for a number of defense contractors building electronic systems for weapons of war, other than DCAS inspectors we never saw too many government people during our development or production of our products. So at least for our types of products we were the experts in what we were doing, not the government.

I mention that because it seems like it's assumed that "the government" knows more than commercial aerospace about rocketry, which for someone on the outside seems odd since NASA doesn't build their own rockets - commercial aerospace does. NASA would be the expert on how they want spacecraft to interface with their space station, so NASA being involved with Commercial Cargo and Crew partners makes a lot of sense, especially since those spacecraft are to be certified by NASA for ISS operations.

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Government procurement isn't simply a signed piece of paper for a contract. There's a lot more going on.

No doubt, there are things that the U.S. Government needs to be involved with, especially when highly explosive systems will be operated on government property and could be carrying government owned equipment and supplies.

But NASA is buying a service, not a product, so there shouldn't be as much involvement in the design, development, production, testing and operations of commercial launchers as there would be in a government product like the SLS.

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There's a whole level of involvement by the customer (i.e. the government) in the development, and that's what Dr. Pace was referring to.

After reading the article I looked up Dr. Pace and saw that he doesn't have any "operational experience" in space transportation, just academic interest and policy level type stuff. Maybe that doesn't matter, but it seemed to put him more in the category of pundit than being an expert on the matter of "danger", especially in light of what NASA has actually been willing to do over the past 10 years. Which is why I didn't think his comments really carried a lot of weight from a practical standpoint, but being part of the reconstituted NSC will allow his opinions to carry a lot of political weight - regardless how valid his views may be.

My $0.02
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Offline Rocket Science

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Re: Is Commercial Crew Dangerous?
« Reply #33 on: 08/15/2017 09:19 AM »
All good points but it still doesn't explain why the addition of the word "commercial" makes a LV and spacecraft "dangerous"... I'm thinking back to the old astronaut joke about the vehicle that they were sitting in was built by the lowest bidder in a traditional NASA run program..

It's not "the addition of the word 'commercial.'" It's the amount of insight and oversight during development. It's how many reviews, meetings, audits and tests are required.

You guys read these articles and draw your conclusions, but you lack the context and the knowledge of what is really being discussed. Government procurement isn't simply a signed piece of paper for a contract. There's a lot more going on. There's a whole level of involvement by the customer (i.e. the government) in the development, and that's what Dr. Pace was referring to.
Yes, but NASA has provided their input all the way throughout the LV and spacecraft development as can be seen that SpaceX has abandoned propulsive landing for their main customer as per their wishes. Will future astronauts die, hopefully not but the possibility always will exist and the agency has their own sad history of catastrophic failures when they designed, owned and operated the LVs and spacecraft. In the end those unwilling to take the risks need not apply as I did personally taking my own measure...
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Online john smith 19

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Re: Is Commercial Crew Dangerous?
« Reply #34 on: 08/15/2017 09:45 AM »

You could look at aviation safety as well. The statistics are all available. Take a look at military aviation. If you've read The Right Stuff or books about test pilots in the 1950s and fighter pilots in the same era you know that they all knew guys who died in crashes. Military aviation had high accident and fatality rates in the 1950s and even the 1960s. And then those rates started to drop and drop fast. Now the number of military aircraft fatalities in the U.S. military is quite small.
Of course so did the rate at which new aircraft were being designed, probably due to the cost.  :(

With no new aircraft designs you could cut the test pilot fatality rate to zero.

There is no such thing as perfect safety. Avoiding "obviously" dangerous approaches and systems seems a good idea yet (for example) all human rated US systems post X15 have astonishingly toxic hypergols for RCS and OMS functions

Yet I don't see anyone talking about phasing them out, despite their very deep lack of "safety."  :(

It should also be noted that even the Shuttle proved in actual operation just a little better than a fully ELV,

The challenge of course is to deliver better safety without bankruptcy.

BTW the first A in NASA is for aeronautics.

Is it mandatory for every US plane builder to consult with NASA on any new design?

I don't think it is, although I'm sure they have ready access to most of NASA's test reports on such subjects, and if their design is exotic they'd be unwise to consult the library to see what's been done already (you have to work very hard to find something that is truly never, ever been tried or proposed earlier).

"Safety" is a classic tactic for for a mature bureaucracy to defend it's territory against new comers who are basically, not employees of that bureaucracy.

And I don't think anyone doubts NASA is a very mature bureaucracy.  :(
« Last Edit: 08/15/2017 09:59 AM by john smith 19 »
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Offline Blackstar

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Re: Is Commercial Crew Dangerous?
« Reply #35 on: 08/15/2017 01:20 PM »
After reading the article I looked up Dr. Pace and saw that he doesn't have any "operational experience" in space transportation, just academic interest and policy level type stuff. Maybe that doesn't matter, but it seemed to put him more in the category of pundit

He started out as an engineer at Rockwell on the shuttle program.

But since you opened up the issue of credentials: this is the policy section, what are your credentials to comment on policy?

Online yg1968

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Re: Is Commercial Crew Dangerous?
« Reply #36 on: 08/15/2017 02:17 PM »
After reading the article I looked up Dr. Pace and saw that he doesn't have any "operational experience" in space transportation, just academic interest and policy level type stuff. Maybe that doesn't matter, but it seemed to put him more in the category of pundit

He started out as an engineer at Rockwell on the shuttle program.

But since you opened up the issue of credentials: this is the policy section, what are your credentials to comment on policy?

You don't need credentials for space policy. Everyone can have an opinion.
« Last Edit: 08/15/2017 02:17 PM by yg1968 »

Offline Jim

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Re: Is Commercial Crew Dangerous?
« Reply #37 on: 08/15/2017 02:26 PM »
Having worked for a number of defense contractors building electronic systems for weapons of war, other than DCAS inspectors we never saw too many government people during our development or production of our products. So at least for our types of products we were the experts in what we were doing, not the government.

Were you there for the design, development and prototype testing for your product?   Have you been involved in a major weapon system procurement?


I mention that because it seems like it's assumed that "the government" knows more than commercial aerospace about rocketry, which for someone on the outside seems odd since NASA doesn't build their own rockets - commercial aerospace does.

Do you understand the governments role in the design, development and testing of fighters?  It is the same role that NASA does.
« Last Edit: 08/15/2017 02:27 PM by Jim »

Online yg1968

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Re: Is Commercial Crew Dangerous?
« Reply #38 on: 08/15/2017 02:28 PM »
Bear in mind that Space's comments were made 5 years ago before CCtCap when commercial crew was still under SAAs.

Remember Musk's recent comments about NASA's oversight being difficult for his employees. He qualified it by saying it that it is necessary for commercial crew but there was clearly some frustration in his tone over how cumbersome the oversight has become under CCtCap.

My own view is that this cumbersome oversight doesn't make commercial crew any safer just more expensive. Insight is important for commercial crew but oversight should be minimized.

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Re: Is Commercial Crew Dangerous?
« Reply #39 on: 08/15/2017 02:31 PM »
Bear in mind that Space's comments were made 5 years ago before CCtCap when commercial crew was still under SAAs.

Remember Musk's recent comments about NASA's oversight being difficult for his employees. He qualified it by saying it that it is necessary for commercial crew but there was clearly some frustration in his tone over how cumbersome the oversight has become under CCtCap.

My own view is that this cumbersome oversight doesn't make commercial crew any safer just more expensive. Insight is important for commercial crew but oversight should be minimized.

NASA oversight discovered people sitting on installed COPV's

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