Launch UK space webinar

Attended Launch UK space webinar today outlining aspects of the regulation updates and launch license application procedure; safety cases and evidence being is a key part of this important process.

Dr Andy Quinn is Saturn SMS’s spaceflight expert (SQEP) and is also part of the Space Launch Alliance who will provide either a safety case for spaceport and/or spaceflight operator, or provide an independent Assurance Case on the full regulatory requirements for the launch.

Lecturing for City University

Dr Andy Quinn, Managing Director of Saturn SMS, recently held an online module for a City University postgraduate MSc course: the module being “Future Aviation Challenges: From Unmanned Systems to Spaceflight”. 23 students from around the world attended and discussed how aviation and spaceflight industries are planning for, and adapting to, rapid commerically-driven innovation.

As the leading authority on spaceflight safety, Dr Andy Quinn also lectures at City University, and is currently developing a new two-day Continuing Professional Development course for the university’s newly-formed London Space Institute. The course will focus on space launch management to provide a much-needed resolution to the growing skills gap in the sector.

Spaceport Studies

Saturn SMS safety & regulatory expert, Dr Andy Quinn, has been involved in UKSA-funded spaceport studies since 2016 (NSTP2 Study on Vertical Launched systems at all spaceport locations at the top of Scotland, as part of the Deimos/HIE consortium), as well as more recent safety support to Sutherland/Orbex (via UKLSL). Andy also provided safety and regulatory input to horizontal spaceport studies including being involved via UKLSL on the Spaceport Snowdonia study, and via Reaction Engines on the Campbeltown/MACC study.

Reaction Engines – 2021 update

Time for a quick update on the work Saturn SMS have been focussing on with Reaction Engines.

  • Saturn delivered on major CDR milestone for the demonstrator core engine (DEMO-A)
  • HAZOP (and work with performance team in assessing HAZOP-identified risks to run in the Dynamic Model – this then resulted in re-sizing of a valve and associated orifices to prevent more severe outcomes)
  • Zonal Hazard Analysis (which identified areas for insulation, re-positioning of equipment, shielding etc.)
  • Fault Tree Analysis (which assisted in identifying common cause failures and allowed for sensitivity analysis, as well as proving the effectiveness of the Safety Critical Monitor as a vital safety measure)
  • Work on subsystem HAZOP for Heat exchanger and Pre-burner combined test

Saturn SMS are pleased to be continuing work with RE on various projects including hypersonic vehicle/engine studies for space and military markets. Andy’s unique insight into the safety and certification challenges for the engine/subsystems (as would be installed in a Flight Test Vehicle) has been of great value to RE.

Space Launch Alliance

Saturn SMS is pleased to announced the formation of the Space Launch Alliance, of which Saturn is a founding member.

The Alliance is a collective of Suitably Qualified Experienced Personnel (SQEP). We are independent consultants with proven expertise and operational experience in the field.

Our SQEP team has decades of space experience having provided Product Assurance at the European Space Agency and in the UK. More recently our personnel have worked on UK Space Agency funded spaceport studies and for a spaceflight operator. We have provided safety cases for rocket test facilities and performed safety/reliability analysis on rocket development programs. We have experience in production and test of propulsion systems, launch and test campaign management and ground equipment design and manufacture, notably for ESA. We have operational experience of airfield management and services integration. Our Alliance is growing and we have combined our space SQEP with related expertise from the aerospace and oil & gas industries to provide the following services:

  • Safety Assurance & Risk Assessment
  • Human Factors & Environment Assessments
  • Technical Assessment
  • Site Operations Management
  • Legal Services

Find out more in our press release below. 

The Space Launch Alliance – SQEP in Space

URA Thrusters design and safety case

Saturn SMS have been contracted to work on developing design FMEAs and safety cases for the URA Thruster testing, based at Westcott Venture Park. URA are focussed on commercialising the use of water for in-space propulsion.

Dr Andy Quinn, Managing Director of Saturn SMS said:

We are delighted to be working with URA Thrusters on this exciting project and look forward to helping URA innovate and progress in-space water propulsion solutions


Andy Quinn Spaceflight Safety Presentation at ICAO

Andy Quinn, Managing Director of spaceflight safety consultancy Saturn SMS recently attended the thoroughly enjoyable and productive ICAO / UNOOSA AeroSPACE Symposium held in Montreal on 18-20 March.

The symposium brought together 350 delegates from 37 nations, from aviation and space communities aiming to:

… explore existing regulations and practices as well as safety management and systems engineering methods with regard to civil aviation, suborbital flights and developments in space transportation.
– ICAO website

Andy Quinn gave a well received presentation titled “Evolutionary Commercial Spaceflight: Doing it Safely”. Speaking after the close of the symposium, Andy reflected on the challenges ahead:

The symposium provided great debate and highlighted the disparate ideas on frameworks and vehicle levels of safety and design approaches … this will be no easy journey but it is a necessary journey and this symposium is the first step. ICAO held a Space Learning Group meeting and these will continue, and I’m looking forward to the 2nd ICAO/UNOOSA symposium which will be held be in the UAE next year.

Andy’s presentation is available for download:

ICAO_UNOOSA AeroSPACE Symposium Presentation (Andy Quinn)

This presentation, and those from the rest of the event are also available from the symposium’s website:

Spaceship Two Explosion / Break-up During Flight Test

A very sad day for Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites.

It’s also a sad day for the nascent industry as a whole. After last week’s Orbital Sciences explosion shortly after launch, this second commercial space flight accident will bring closer scrutiny to what is essentially a high risk business.

The test pilots at Virgin (and no doubt XCOR) know these risks and furthermore know the safety risks are higher during flight tests; hence they wear additional safety equipment such as parachutes – when the vehicle is clearly not designed for emergency egress in flight (certainly not for the SFPs).

The IAASS suborbital safety guidance manual was updated last month to include survival systems and survival equipment guidance. We (the international based association with S-3, Airbus and Rocketplane to name a few) believe that a vehicle or personal survival system is essential for suborbital human space flight for emergency situations. Virgin Galactic has lost a pilot sadly and one pilot survived due to wearing a parachute. As the risk is high especially for the early flights the cost benefit analysis would demand such systems. The point of experimental test flights and ground testing is to iron-out reliability and safety issues – even if it means re-design of certain systems; or even changes to the vehicle itself.

Additionally the IAASS Suborbital Safety Guidance Manual has a section on propulsion safety written by our own expert used to designing and handling N2O.
Previously COMSTAC gave our guidance manual the cold shoulder; however at last month’s conference it was pleasing that the FAA-AST were willing to review the guidance and interested in our views. I have also reviewed the latest FAA-AST recommended practices and they have improved on the initial draft and now include recommendations on emergency survival systems.

So going forward let us hope that industry takes heed of both American Authority and International based guidance. As the Spaceship Two explosion / breakup shows, Spaceflight is a very risky business where safety should be embedded from the beginning – meaning formal safety management and systems safety engineering.