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 …show more content…
In order to reduce paperwork, NASA utilized a waiver system. This system was in place decades before the Challenger disaster. It allowed project managers and contract administrators the authority to bypass standard protocol in order to save time. Waivers were a way for NASA to state that the risk was acceptable and to continue operations. If a waiver was issued and the coinciding mission was a success, the same waiver would be used for future operations and were not revisited. Since the risk management system used by NASA was based on qualitative data rather than quantitative data, waivers were extremely subjective. This was seen throughout the space shuttle development process. Essentially, NASA and Thiokol did not do a satisfactory job in controlling risks, which includes evaluating the risk process effectiveness throughout the project and is intended to optimize risk responses. Since it was a qualitative waiver process, most of the decisions made were ‘management decisions’ rather than engineering ones. Since there wasn’t organized data they could utilize in defense of their positions, the engineers opinions weren’t heavily considered when they contradicted the decision of the management.
Problems Encountered: NASA and Thiokol encountered numerous issues during the duration of the space shuttle program. Some of these include paperwork