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Regulatory Development Study: Launch System Response Modes

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

The UK Space Agency sought to gain insights into the performance of launch vehicles during successful flights, the potential failures that could result in unsuccessful flights, and how the vehicles could respond to such failures. Responding to this need, UK Launch Services Ltd (UKLSL) set out to provide a comprehensive overview of foreseeable launch vehicle failures and their corresponding response modes, thereby aiding in the modelling of a representative case from the UK.


To accomplish this objective, UKLSL conducted a meticulous review of historical launch failures spanning the past three decades. By analyzing and categorizing similar failure events, UKLSL identified distinct "Failure Modes" that encapsulated common patterns and causes of failures. Simultaneously, they grouped and categorized the corresponding responses of launch vehicles to these failures, enabling them to recognize prevalent patterns of vehicle response.


The engineering and mathematical methodologies used to establish connections between vehicle response modes and failure modes were rigorously examined and presented. These methodologies demonstrated how they could be effectively employed to comprehend potential failures and response modes specific to a particular launch vehicle design. By combining these methodologies with the historical failure mode data, it became possible to quantitatively assess the likelihood of different failure scenarios during a launch.


The findings of this study not only shed light on the common failure modes and response patterns observed in historical launch incidents but also provided valuable insights into the risk assessment and mitigation strategies associated with launch vehicle designs. Armed with this knowledge, the UK Space Agency can make informed decisions regarding the development of robust and reliable launch vehicles, thereby enhancing the overall safety and success rates of future space missions.


The thorough analysis and utilization of engineering and mathematical methodologies conducted by UKLSL showcase their commitment to delivering accurate and quantifiable assessments of launch vehicle failures and response modes. These outcomes serve as a valuable resource for the UK Space Agency, enabling them to foster a proactive and risk-informed approach in their efforts to advance the UK's launch capabilities.



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