National Aeronautics and Space Administration
ISS safety is organized similar to the way the ISS Program is organized. The ISS Safety Division (NE) provides the NASA safety oversight with integration being provided by the ISS Safety &Mission Assurance/ Program Risk Office (OE). Once again the exception is EVA where the EVA Safety and Reliability Group under the S&MA Integration Branch of the Quality and Flight Equipment Division (NT) provides the S&MA oversight of EVA in support of the EVA Project Office. The ISS Safety &Mission Assurance/ Program Risk Office (OE) also provides the safety integration function between the ISSP and EVA. The organizational deficiencies that have been identified by this Board with regard to EVA overall, (see O-28) exist also in the realm of safety. The separateness of EVA from the rest of the ISS community extends to the safety community as well. It is only natural that, although unintentional, the tendency is to view EVA safety independent of the context of its use within the ISS Program. Risks, therefore, are not always elevated in that context or if they are, are not communicated in such a manner as might be most revelatory to the decision maker. As it has been explained to members of the Board, it is not clear that when risks have been brought forward they have been put in terms meaningful to the ISS Program. They may not have clearly identified that when accepting certain EVA risks, what the additional level of risk being accepted by the Program is due to the termination or aborting an EVA at a time that would impact the success of an EVA critical to ISS. This is particularly important for EVA risks in that EVA is inherently more risky that other elements of the ISS as the requirements under which the ISS has been developed are different from a failure tolerance standpoint than the EMU. As has been pointed out elsewhere, the EMU is a legacy from the Space Shuttle Program. It was designed originally to be brought into space, used several times, and brought home again for refurbishment. It was designed as a single fault tolerant system with an abort capability within the time to effect. The rest of the ISS is generally two fault tolerant. The EMU is also now operating in a different environment than that for which it was originally designed. Its life has been extended and it is getting older. Decision makers have to keep this all in mind when addressing EVA risks. Generally, the MER Safety position is staffed by NE personnel who are very knowledgeable about ISS systems and risks. For all of the reasons previously cited, they have less understanding of EVA systems and the risks associated with EVA. That knowledge resides within NT. During EVA operations, NT supports NE at the MER Safety console. However, without proper training, it is likely that the MER Safety Officer will not know to act or pass along information or recommendations of the supporting EVA personnel without extended discussion which may not be possible in real time. It is also of concern to the Board that the situation may be further exacerbated by the funding sources of the various safety entities. In these cases the risk is also high of personnel wanting to “please the customer.” Concern has been raised that sometimes when issues have been brought forward, the philosophy of the funding organization, whether it is perceived as from ISS or the EVA Office, is taken by the supporting safety organization. This is a dangerous precedent and can lead to group think. Efforts must be made to reinforce the independence of the safety community from the Program or Project. One mechanism for maintaining and ensuring independence under the current funding model is the Chief Safety Officer funded out of NASA Headquarters, independent of any program. Under the current organizational structure, it is not clear that maximum use is being made of this office. Subconsciously, it appears on both sides of the relationship there is a feeling of “otherness.” Within the EVA Office the role
Published on Feb 27, 2014
Report of the NASA Mishap Investigation Board examining the high visibility close call event of July 16, 2013 when ESA astronaut Luca Parmit...