More Data Needed for Failure Rate Estimation, Validation, and Uncertainty Reduction




Owens, Andrew
Cirillo, William
Piontek, Nicole
Stromgren, Chel
Cho, Jason

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50th International Conference on Environmental Systems


The currently planned schedule for advanced Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) development and test activities to support human exploration missions is unlikely to generate sufficient data for statistically-supportable, precise Orbital Replacement Unit (ORU) failure rate estimates to meet existing crew safety expectations. Accurate and precise failure rate estimates are critical for missions beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO) because current risk mitigation approaches � namely regular resupply and rapid abort capabilities � will not be available. Safe operations will depend on mission planners� ability to accurately forecast spares demand and efficiently provide necessary resources. Even after more than a decade of International Space Station (ISS) ECLSS operations, a significant amount of uncertainty remains in failure rate estimates. Uncertain or inaccurate failure rates result in increased risk and spares mass. A Bayesian estimation approach, such as the one currently implemented by the ISS Program, can reduce uncertainty by incorporating engineering judgement into failure rate estimates. However, experience on the ISS and with other complex systems shows that these prior failure rate estimates are often inaccurate. In addition, prior estimates are typically point values; some level of uncertainty must be added to convert these into probability distributions for Bayesian updating, and there are several potential methods for doing so. Due to the low rate of data collection, any inaccuracy in these prior estimates currently has a strong influence on the end result. This paper examines the challenges associated with failure rate estimation, validation, and uncertainty reduction in the context of ECLSS development for beyond-LEO missions. A variety of techniques for generating and updating Bayesian priors are discussed and evaluated using real-world and simulated data. Potential solutions for improving failure rate estimation, including testing additional units, are analyzed and discussed, and a set of recommendations are provided for next-generation system development activities.


Andrew Owens, NASA
William Cirillo, NASA
Nicole Piontek, Binera, Inc.
Chel Stromgren, Binera, Inc.
Jason Cho, Binera, Inc.
ICES511: Reliability for Space Based Systems
The 50th International Conference on Environmental Systems was held virtually on 12 July 2021 through 14 July 2021.


Reliability, Supportability, Testing