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Proceedings Paper

Causes of catastrophic failure in complex systems
Author(s): David A. Thomas
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Paper Abstract

Root causes of mission critical failures and major cost and schedule overruns in complex systems and programs are studied through the post-mortem analyses compiled for several examples, including the Hubble Space Telescope, the Challenger and Columbia Shuttle accidents, and the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant accident. The roles of organizational complexity, cognitive biases in decision making, the display of quantitative data, and cost and schedule pressure are all considered. Recommendations for mitigating the risk of similar failures in future programs are also provided.

Paper Details

Date Published: 8 September 2010
PDF: 12 pages
Proc. SPIE 7796, An Optical Believe It or Not: Key Lessons Learned II, 77960K (8 September 2010); doi: 10.1117/12.859906
Show Author Affiliations
David A. Thomas, The Aerospace Corp. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 7796:
An Optical Believe It or Not: Key Lessons Learned II
Mark A. Kahan, Editor(s)

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