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Don’t Make False Assumptions… but DFMEA!

Published on 06/07/2017 by Romain Sohier
#AirBusiness Academy

You’ve heard of the Russian launcher Soyuz?

Well, a few weeks back they had the mission of launching the first two satellites of the Galileo program. This European project promises great accuracy in locating where we or objects are on the planet and has the potential to offer accuracies below one meter.

I think you will not miss the irony when I tell you that Soyuz actually missed their target position by approximately 6 000km!!!!

Neither satellite was insured…150 million euros down the drain…for the European Space Agency.

How on earth could the 4th floor of Soyuz (called Fregat) fail this mission after 45 successful launches?!!

Maybe there was a faulty pipe? Possible…but the launcher was designed by highly qualified engineers and had functioned correctly 45 times!

Maybe the political situation in the Ukraine was to blame? The increased tension between Moscow and Brussels after the annex of Crimea meant that the Secret service must be involved somehow. It was all part of their ploy to exhibit Russian superiority over Europe.

Speculation and assumptions and explanations and excuses were heard in abundance, becoming more extraordinary by the minute.

And then finally, the investigation conclusions were published.

Shock horror! It was indeed that simple pipe. The pipe feeding the hydrazine thrusters was in contact with another pipe circulating low temperature helium, causing an icy heat exchange…for the non-engineer like me, it is like a bucket of ice near a barbeque!

Can you even imagine the cost of that simple design error??

Being an advocate of the FMEA method or Failure Mode Effect Analysis, which is also applicable to Design (DFMEA) or Products or Processes (PFMEA), I can’t help but think that I could definitely have helped the Russian’s save millions!!

Romain Sohier

Romain Sohier

Operational Management Faculty

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