Abstract

Space mission-related projects are demanding and risky undertakings because of their complexity and cost. Many missions have failed over the years due to anomalies in either the launch vehicle or the spacecraft. Projects of such magnitude with undetected flaws due to ineffective process controls account for huge losses. Such failures continue to occur despite the studies on systems engineering process deficiencies and the state-of-the-art systems engineering practices in place. To further explore the reasons behind majority of the failures, we analyzed the failure data of space missions that happened over the last decade. Based on that information, we studied the launch-related failure events from a design decision-making perspective by employing failure event chain-based framework and identified some dominant cognitive biases that might have impacted the overall system performance leading to unintended catastrophes. The results of the study are presented in this paper.

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