AFSEC trains Guardians on mishap investigation

  • Published
  • By Capt. Paige Mehringer
  • HQ Air Force Safety Center

On April 3, the Air Force Safety Center kicked off the first Space Mishap Investigation Course at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, since the standup of the U.S. Space Force. The course, which ended April 14, is aimed to provide Guardians, specifically Space Safety Officers, with the opportunity to learn how to investigate and determine root cause for various space and explosive mishaps.

Topics taught included mishap investigation fundamentals, methods and processes, safety investigation board procedures, environmental and material factors, systems investigation techniques, the impact of human factors, and final report writing.

Maj. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, chief of safety for the Air Force and Space Force provided opening comments, “While we focus on a proactive safety mindset, we recognize that occasionally humans will make mistakes, and mishaps will occur. By understanding the root cause of a mishap, we can develop sounds recommendations that will prevent future mishaps. We should all cultivate a culture of safety through bold, innovative, and thoughtful actions.”

Space Safety encompasses many areas including but not limited to pre-launch, launch and range, orbital, reentry, and ground-based space systems. Students of this course will learn to develop a complete narrative based on investigation and analysis information by examining hypothetical space mishap scenarios.

Vice Chief of Space Operations Gen. David “DT” Thompson, and Col Kenneth Decker, who led the Minotaur II+ rocket mishap investigation in July 2022, joined Maj Gen Leavitt as keynote speakers. Each of the speakers emphasized the importance of safety in space operations as well as sharing their personal experiences.

 “Space safety is critical to operational readiness. Space safety does not just mean prevention, but also, the responsibility to investigate mishaps when they do happen,” stated Thompson.

Seventeen students joined the two-week course which represented the 16th Air Force, Space Operations Command, Space System Command, Space Training and Readiness Command, and the Air Force Research Laboratory from Patrick SFB, Fla.; Peterson SFB, Colo.; Vanderburg SFB, Calif.; Edwards AFB, Calif.; Joint Base San Antonio, Tex.; Kirkland AFB, New Mex.; Los Angeles AFB, Calif.

For two full days, the students of the course were fulling immersed into two different mishaps scenarios. They broke into groups to analyze an orbital mishap and a launch mishap, and they were to determine what caused the mishap as well as make recommendations to the Safety Investigation Board to prevent a reoccurrence of these mishaps in the future.

The course is intended for space-related billets including any jobs focused specifically on a space mission: designing, integrating, operating, employing, sustaining, maintaining, or supporting space systems within the Department of Defense and select government positions. 

The next course is scheduled for September.