Challenger Disaster

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Risk Quantification

7. How did NASA decide what is or is not an acceptable risk?

NASA identified and evaluated hazards through a formalized hazard reduction process as described in the NASA Handbook, NHB5300.4. The process required that hazards be determined for probability and credibility. In order to ensure that the standards within NHB5300.4 were adhered to, a Senior Safety Review Board was established for overseeing the risk assessment process. The process allowed for a certain amount of risk to be allowed as long as it was acceptable. To determine whether or not a hazard was an acceptable risk, NASA used a Safety Classification System, which was a qualitative system rather than a quantitative system. This was due to the high
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Instead, they maintained their current trajectory of making decisions qualitatively. NASA should have improved their risk management processes as more data was gathered. Databases could have been compiled with the information from previous flights that could have provided probabilistic risk assessment and trends for future flights. If NASA and Thiokol had used quantitative data when assessing the erosion and blow by incidents, they likely would have come to a different conclusion when they decided to launch the Challenger shuttle.

10. Which risks should be elevated? To whom should they be elevated? Who should have the final say in the response mechanism for a risk?

All risks should be elevated to whatever level of responsibility are related to the task or component the risk is assigned to. For example, lower level risks should be assigned to lower level management and the critical risks, as described in exhibit V, should be the responsibility of the program manager and the NASA administrator. It's also important to note that for the risks involved in space travel, the astronauts on the flight should also be aware of the assumed risks that are taking place during the development of the space shuttle. One of the issues that NASA faced during the space shuttle development is that risks weren’t assigned to a specific level of authority. No one person had the
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