Project engineers are focused on making their space missions operate as planned. But such an optimistic approach is insufficient in the face of Murphy's Law, the well-known maxim that was originally taken from rocketry: 'what can go wrong will go wrong.'
So to improve the likelihood of mission success, project teams are assisted by a separate class of personnel possessing a very different mindset. Product Assurance and Safety (PA&S) engineers are responsible for failure-proofing missions by methodically identifying all possible adverse outcomes, then coming up with ways of preventing them from taking place.
The 160-strong PA&S group are in the business of controlling risk: in particular they prioritise factors related to human safety – not only for astronauts but also launch facility operators, test engineers and laboratory staff.
Space projects also rely on PA&S engineers to ensure hardware and software quality, product reliability, electronic components, standards, materials, mechanical parts, critical industrial fabrication processes and configuration control.
Their working tools are laboratories, test facilities, reviews, audits, inspection of processes and products. PA&S engineers will alert managers if on potential quality problems and initiate corrective actions.
Last update: 16 July 2010