Author Topic: Thirty years after Challenger RTF, Commercial Crew strives for culture of safety  (Read 2734 times)

Online Chris Bergin

FEATURE ARTICLE: Thirty years after Return To Flight from Challenger, Commercial Crew strives for culture of safety:

https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2018/09/thirty-years-rtf-challenger-ccp-strives-culture-safety/

By Chris Gebhardt leading to anniversary (29th). Thanks to SpaceX, Boeing and NASA Commercial Crew Program for their assistance.

Offline TripleSeven

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interesting article.

Offline woods170

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interesting article.

I'll be considerably more blunt: the link between the STS-26 RTF mission and current CCP safety culture is far-fetched IMO.
There is considerable attention, in the article, to the improvement of the safety culture at NASA in the wake of Challenger.

Well, in reality that "improvement" in safety culture never really was.

Evidence: Columbia

The lessons learned after Challenger were forgotten REAL quick. The TPS damage found after STS-26 and STS-27 never led to a stand-down and re-assessment of the Space Transportation System. Less than 3 years after Challenger the "improved safety culture" had already failed.

Next, NASA was lucky for 15 years but then finally got a very nasty refresher-course when STS-107 broke-up on reentry. Only after this second fatal incident did the safety culture at NASA really change.

If anything, the current improved safety culture at NASA, as witnessed in the execution of CCP, should be tied to STS-114, not STS-26.

Having said that, I must congratulate Chris G. on delivering yet another beautifully written article. But personally I would have left out the connection to CCP, for the reasons mentioned above.
« Last Edit: 09/28/2018 06:03 pm by woods170 »

Offline TripleSeven

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interesting article.

I'll be considerably more blunt: the link between the STS-26 RTF mission and current CCP safety culture is far-fetched IMO.
There is considerable attention, in the article, to the improvement of the safety culture at NASA in the wake of Challenger.

Well, in reality that "improvement" in safety culture never really was.

Evidence: Columbia

The lessons learned after Challenger were forgotten REAL quick. The TPS damage found after STS-26 and STS-27 never led to a stand-down and re-assessment of the Space Transportation System. Less than 3 years after Challenger the "improved safety culture" had already failed.

Next, NASA was lucky for 15 years but then finally got a very nasty refresher-course when STS-107 broke-up on reentry. Only after this second fatal incident did the safety culture at NASA really change.

If anything, the current improved safety culture at NASA, as witnessed in the execution of CCP, should be tied to STS-114, not STS-26.

Having said that, I must congratulate Chris G. on delivering yet another beautifully written article. But personally I would have left out the connection to CCP, for the reasons mentioned above.

the article is great and so are your points

the waiver on the return to flight was indicative of no real lessons being learned.  the "oh everyone agreed to it" or "they would not take any chances" are the same lines that tuned up right before Challenger's last flight.

there is no other organization, in fact it is expressly forbidden in say nuclear power, to "issue" on the spot waivers for safety rules.  the main reason is that the pressure to waive and to stay silent is enormous

in the airline industry a MEL or a Part A or B "rule" cannot under circumstances be waived EXCEPT by reaching into FAR 91.3 (and its 121 eqvuivelent) and section C comes into force immediately.  the US military has exactly the same regulations (with a war exception).

what is notable about both Challenger and Columbia is that in both last events the PIC was cut completely out of the decision making loop. I suspect that if a real analysis by an outside sources were made of the station air leak...similar issues are in play

that is why my initial response was "interesting"

a fine article...well done

Offline simonx

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It's a great article and the link to Challenger and Commercial crew is obvious as that was a launch failure of amazing cultural issues. Columbia was bad, but not as terrible a culture issue as Challenger. Challenger should never have launched. Columbia should have been held in orbit for a potential rescue.

Online ncb1397

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If anything, the current improved safety culture at NASA, as witnessed in the execution of CCP, should be tied to STS-114, not STS-26.


The Challenger-Columbia gap is the most consecutive U.S. space flights of a manned vehicle without a fatal incident in U.S. history and 2nd most world wide. It was 87 fatality free launches, while the post Columbia count was 22 flights.  Soyuz holds the record at 128.

Offline Steven Pietrobon

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Great article! Brought back memories of watching STS-26 from the home where I was renting a room in South Bend, Indiana while I was studying for my PhD. I thought this paragraph was interesting.

"This was seen in the final years of the Space Shuttle and the program’s final three flights.  There, analysis said the repairs to the External Tank stringers met all flight criteria with no additional tests required.  Experience said “do tanking tests and make sure.”"

How does that align with CST-100 not doing an in-flight abort test? Boeing says the analysis is all that's needed and NASA agrees with that. :-(
Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design #1:  Engineering is done with numbers.  Analysis without numbers is only an opinion.

Offline Stardust9906

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Very nice well written article many thanks to Chris G.  Particularly enjoyed the look back into history with STS 26.

Offline HIP2BSQRE

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Great article! Brought back memories of watching STS-26 from the home where I was renting a room in South Bend, Indiana while I was studying for my PhD. I thought this paragraph was interesting.

"This was seen in the final years of the Space Shuttle and the program’s final three flights.  There, analysis said the repairs to the External Tank stringers met all flight criteria with no additional tests required.  Experience said “do tanking tests and make sure.”"

How does that align with CST-100 not doing an in-flight abort test? Boeing says the analysis is all that's needed and NASA agrees with that. :-(

I agree...analysis may say one thing...testing may show another.  And no test enhances safety?  I think it came down to money.  Boeing is getting so much more to than SpaceX.  An actual test is not going to be cheap. 

Offline tdperk

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If anything, the current improved safety culture at NASA, as witnessed in the execution of CCP, should be tied to STS-114, not STS-26.

I think it was STS-114 after STS-26 which finally convinced NASA they really weren't doing it right.

And yes, it's a fairly good article.

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