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LEWIS SPACECRAFT MISSION FAILURE INVESTIGATION BOARD - Term Paper Example

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LEWIS SPACECRAFT MISSION FAILURE INVESTIGATION BOARD

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 problem with the ACS Simulation was that when the ground crew ran tests to determine the position of the spacecraft in safe mode, they received flawed data that did not enable them to detect the attitude problems that the spacecraft was experiencing. They were unable to detect the emergency that was playing out because of the flawed simulations.
The second direct factor that led to the loss of the spacecraft was “inadequate space monitoring” (LSMFIB 11). 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 ...Show more

Summary

The Lewis Spacecraft Mission failure of 1997 brings to the fore the risks inherent in engineering project management in the area of space exploration. NASA hoped to use the project to demonstrate the viability of using smaller satellites for space applications (NRC & NASA 54)…
Author : imcclure
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