Updated Range Flight Safety Course Improves Training Experience
The NASA Range Flight Safety Program, with support from the NASA Safety Center (NSC), recently released an update to “Range Flight Safety Analysis” (SMA-AS-WBT-435), available in SATERN. The new training includes recent policy changes, updated materials and the new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Code of Federal Regulations Part 450 requirements. It also converts previous in-class exercises to instructor-led demonstrations.
“The new course, which is required for Range Flight Safety analysists, is much easier to digest and take over a stretch of time, as it’s broken into six modules that will take approximately 14.5 hours to complete,” said Chuck Loftin, Range Flight Safety program manager. “It reflects what we feel are the learning preferences of today. Years ago, we taught this course in-person over a week. Then, in 2013, we worked with the NSC to capture the 27-or-so hours of training and exercises for an online-learning experience. This was really progressive and allowed people to take training more easily, but it’s been almost another decade — we’ve once again evolved on how we like to take in information, as well as our tools for virtual learning. We truly believe this new approach with shorter modules and a mix of web-based demonstrations will be a better learning experience.”
One of the primary roles of Range Flight Safety is to perform flight analyses to identify and mitigate risk to the public, NASA workforce and property. This course is designed to give learners a good understanding of NASA methods in conducting Range Flight Safety analysis. While providing an overview of FAA and Department of Defense requirements, the course focuses on NASA requirements for flight safety analysis; a discussion of range operations hazards, risk criteria, and Risk Management processes; and an in-depth coverage of containment and Risk Management analyses. It covers a variety of vehicle types, including Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Unguided Launch Vehicles (sounding rockets), Guided Launch Vehicles and other unique flight vehicles at NASA centers across the country. The course concentrates on debris hazards and analyses but includes an overview of toxic, blast and radiation analyses as well.
With such a comprehensive agenda, one of the most notable changes in the new course is the exam. The 2013 course included one comprehensive exam at the end of the 27+ hours of training, while the new course includes several mini exams at key points (module conclusion) throughout the course to better enable learning over a period of time.
“The old course was monolithic with one comprehensive exam at the end of the course,” said Brenda Wall, Range Safety engineer with Safety and Mission Assurance Support Services APT at Kennedy Space Center. “Taking the previous course over weeks or months as the student’s schedule permitted was challenging because the exam was comprehensive. Now, the new course has a modular structure. Each module has its own mini exam at the end. This structure facilitates the student’s ability to progress through the course at their own pace whenever they have time.”
Each module builds off preceding ones and to receive credit, learners must complete all modules and exams. As noted, this course is required for Range Flight Safety analysts.
“It’s in NASA-STD-8719.25 as one of the requirements for Range Flight Safety analysts,” explained Wall. “This is one of the foundation courses that each of the centers use to train their Range Safety professionals, and it’s a good course for people who have to deal with Range Flight Safety and want to learn more or better understand ‘What does Range Flight Safety do for me?’ It is a different discipline; we deal within what’s called failure space: what happens if something fails. However, most people deal with success space. Everybody wants to get the mission done, get the ‘good science’ or the mission objectives accomplished, and we do too, but we want to get there safely and look at the scenarios of ‘What if something does happen? What if something does go wrong?’ We want to make sure our people are safe, our assets are safe and the environment is safe.”
Wall believes the modular structure will appeal to those trying to gain a better understanding of Range Flight Safety, especially as it pertains to their specific program or project, as they can take only the modules that affect them.
“I hope it helps open the door for people who can benefit from understanding Range Flight Safety, but who aren’t required to take the course, simply because it’s more manageable,” said Wall.
For learners who are not required to take this course and simply want a better understanding of a particular section or vehicle type, the training can be broken up and taken as individual modules, but this is not recommended.
The new course includes 27 videos, eight instructor-led demonstrations and a lot of visuals.
“It’s designed to be engaging, with a large number of photos and videos to convey key concepts and keep the topics interesting,” said Wall. “It’s been many years [since we did the last course] and we’ve morphed that into something much more web-friendly. We’ve really tailored it to the individual at a computer taking this course so they can get the most benefit from the material. It’s an evolution. We get better each time we do this.”
Questions about the course can be directed to Loftin or Wall.