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Space Shuttle Root Cause Analysis Study

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The Space Shuttle Root Cause Analysis (RCA) study is fundamental research addressing the root cause of 2 questions:

  • Why does it cost so much to operate the Space Shuttle system?

  • Why does it take so long to process the Space Shuttle?

Ultimately, what crucial lessons must feed forward into the development of future reusable launch vehicles? A product of this study is a database. For information on obtaining the Shuttle RCA Database, contact Carey McCleskey, NASA KSC.

The Space Shuttle Root Cause (of labor) Database.


Sources of Labor Data for the Space Shuttle Root Cause (of labor) Database.


The RCA database was a joint collaboration of the NASA KSC Systems Engineering Office, the NASA KSC Shuttle Processing Directorate, and Lockheed-Martin Corporation personnel at KSC. Users are encouraged to derive new views into the database as well as share enhanced or distilled forms of the data with the space transportation design and operations community.


The objective here is an understanding of what can make space transportation flight or ground system designs safer, more affordable and more routine by identifying the problems, issues and fundamental road-blocks in operational real-world systems. KSC Space Shuttle Systems engineers contributed expertise and knowledge to the raw, less useful activity sets of data, so as to categorize, understand, and add useful value to each piece of the extensive (thousands) of activities defined per Shuttle processing flow. Knowledge capture of existing Shuttle Systems Engineering (PK Directorate, Shuttle Processing Directorate) created an invaluable data set useful for improving the design and operability of future systems.


In 2004 the RCA database was matured to include multiple flows of data, an enhanced user interface, and significantly enhanced data validity and verification processes creating value for current and future space transportation system operators. Types of data include: ground processing activities, duration of activities, type of activity, activity assignment by sub-systems, causes of activity, number of planned and un-planned activities.


Website Contact: Edgar Zapata, NASA Kennedy Space Center