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Launch Vehicle Failure Mode Database


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  • 1. Launch Vehicle Failure Mode Database AST Research and Development Project Presented to: COMSTAC RLV Working Group By: Nickolas Demidovich Date: May 17, 2007 Federal Aviation Administration
  • 2. Overview
    • Historical Database Tasking
      • Phase 1
      • Phase 2
    • Status
    • Findings to date
      • Overall
      • Trends
    • Scope of Phase 2
    • Path Forward
    • Questions/Discussion
  • 3. Historical Database
    • Description of Project:
    • AST should compile and maintain a database of historical data on failures and reliability of rocket-powered vehicles. An exhaustive database would include not only percentage reliability and number of vehicles, but type and class of vehicle and, to the extent possible, the results of the failure analysis. The ultimate goal is to provide the industry with insight into what fails and why.
      • Phase 1 orbital space launch vehicles
      • Phase 2 available data on suborbital rocket powered (non-missile) vehicles (X-15 and others)
    • Schedule
    • Study Period: November 2006 –June 2007
    • Draft Report: Aug 2007
    • Briefing: Next COMSTAC
    • Goal:
    • Enhance Safety
  • 4. Status of Phase 1
    • Historical Database on ELVs was created using open-source documentation on known failures
      • Database is Not proprietary
      • Database is Not ITAR controlled
      • Database is Preliminary
    • Timeframe: 1957-2007
      • 28 percent of all launch failures over entire period had unknown failures
        • Early Soviet (late 50’s and 60’s) data not publicly available
    • “ Failure” is as defined in FAA/AST report Guide to Probability of Failure Analysis for New Expendable Launch Vehicles:
      • “ An in-flight failure occurs when a launch vehicle does not complete any phase of normal flight.”
  • 5. Status of Phase 1
    • Launch vehicle Database Sources
      • Periodicals (i.e. Satellite News Digest, Jane’s Space Directory etc)
      • Books (i.e.; Encyclopedia Astronautica, Spaceflight and Rocketry, International Reference Guide to Space Launch Systems, etc )
      • Futron Corporation database from 1957
        • Electronic Library of Space Activity (ELSA)
      • Press releases
      • Cross checked data base with internet sites
        • USAF, NASA , etc
  • 6. Known Cause of ELV Launch Failures Worldwide by Vehicle Subsystem 1957- May 2007
    • Propulsion anomalies
    • are salient failure
    • mode historically
  • 7. Known Cause of Launch Failures Worldwide by Vehicle Subsystem 1980-May 2007
    • Propulsion anomalies
    • remain salient
    • failure mode to date
  • 8. ELV Launch Failures Relative to Total Launches US & Soviet Early Launches Initial Launches By New Entrants
  • 9. Percentage of Failed ELV Launches by Country and Decade    
  • 10. Summary of Findings to Date - Trends
    • 39 percent occur of failures occur during operation of the final stage
      • US vehicles have improved in this regard since 1990s
    • Nations generally have early surge in failure
      • Then decline and level off
    • Propulsion anomalies have been and continue to cause most known failures in ELV launches
      • All nations
      • Liquid, solid and combination
  • 11. Summary of Findings to Date - Trends
    • Guidance and navigation have historically been second leading cause of failure
      • Have dropped over time
    • Software and computing systems are a growing concern
      • 8% of failures from 1990-1999
      • 21% of failures since 1999
  • 12. Scope of phase 2
    • Historical database on failures of rocket-powered aircraft currently being scoped
    • Database to focus on
      • Post-World War II U.S. government and commercial rocket-powered aircraft (such as X-planes, etc.)
      • Other Western post-World War II rocket-powered aircraft (such as French and British jets with auxiliary rocket engines)
      • Post-World War II Soviet rocket-powered aircraft
      • World War II and earlier projects (German ME 163, etc.)
    • Research to include NASA logs and other primary sources
  • 13. Path Forward
    • Updating ELV Database as launches occur
    • Historical Database of rocket powered lifting bodies in progress
      • Scoping for Relevance
    • Will update summary and database by next COMSTAC
    • Provides opportunity for RLV community to learn from anomalies in ELVs and rocket-powered lifting bodies