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The Lewis Spacecraft Mission Failure Investigation Board Report - Term Paper Example

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The Lewis Spacecraft Mission Failure Investigation Board Report. The Lewis Spacecraft Mission failure of 1997 brings to the fore the risks inherent in engineering project management in the area of space exploration…
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The Lewis Spacecraft Mission Failure Investigation Board Report
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Download file to see previous pages After launch and successful insertion into orbit, the spacecraft lost contact with the ground station and later became a total loss. An Investigation Board inquired into the loss and determined that a problem with the Attitude Control System led to the loss (NRC & NASA 54). They also identified several factors that may have contributed to the catastrophic loss in the management and engineering rigor applied in the project. This paper relates to the shortcoming and the lesson that a systems engineer in charge of a similar project can learn from it. The Lewis Spacecraft Mission Failure Investigation Board (LSMFIB) identified two direct factors, and several indirect factors contributing to the mission failure. The first direct factor identified was flawed design and simulation of the Attitude Control System (ACS). The design of the ACS was such that in safe mode, the spacecraft would be in a “power positive orientation” (LSMFIB 9). However, an imbalance in the thrusters caused the spacecraft to face away from the sun in such a way that the sun’s rays hit the edges of the solar panels powering the spacecraft. This led to draining of the batteries at a quick rate because of the “power subsystem and thermal subsystem Safe Mode design” (LSMFIB 9). ...
The first reason was that there was pressure on the spacecraft development team to cut costs hence they implemented a single shift. This made the discovery of anomalies very difficult. In fact, the actual problems occurred when no one was on duty. The second reason is that the ground crew failed to declare an emergency even after noting problems that would have justified such a declaration. These problems included the fact that the spacecraft was using the B-side processor when it reached orbit instead of the A-side processor. The second anomaly was that the “solid state recorder would not play back the data previously recorded”, which included the flight data that would have shown the anomalies that affected simulation (LSMFIB 11). The third anomaly was that the ground crew failed to get the space telemetry signal only for the spacecraft to reappear with an “uncontrolled attitude” (LSMFIB 11). The fourth anomaly was that after leaving the spacecraft in safe mode for duration, it took on spinning with the edges of the solar panels facing the sun. Any of these anomalies warranted the declaration of an emergency, which did not happen. The indirect causes of the mishap were actions taken that did not conform to industry standards. If the development teams stuck to the standards, then it is likely that the catastrophic failure would not have occurred. These include project scope creep, cost and schedule pressure, inadequately planned relocation of some production units that affected technical review and testing, frequent changes to the personnel working on the program, and insufficient engineering and management discipline (LSMFIB 12-14). The reasons ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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