information fusion, expectation of casualties, risk analysis, hazard modeling, geographical information systems, spaceport


With the foreseeable increase in traffic frequency to and from orbit, the safe operation of current and future space vehicles at designated spaceports has become a serious concern. Due to their high explosive energy potential, operating those launch vehicles presents a real risk to: (1) the spaceport infrastructure and personnel, (2) the communities surrounding the spaceport and (3) the flying aircrafts whose routes could be relatively close to spaceport launch and reentry routes. Several computer models aimed at modeling the effects of the different hazards generated by the breakup of such vehicles (e.g., fragmentation of debris, release of toxic gases, propagation of blast waves, etc.) have been developed, and are used to assist in Go-No Go launch decisions. They can simulate a total failure scenario of the vehicle and, estimate a number of casualties to be expected as a result of such failure. However, as all of these models - which can be very elaborate and complex - consider only one specific explosion hazard in their simulations, the decision of whether or not a launch should occur is currently based on the evaluation of several estimates of an expected number of casualties. As such, current practices ignore the complex, nonlinear interactions between the different hazards as well as the interdependencies between the estimates. In this study, we developed a new framework which makes use of information fusion theory, hazards' dispersion modeling and, geographical statistical analysis and visualization capabilities of geographical information systems to assess the risk generated by the operation of space launch vehicles. A new risk metric, which effectively addresses the lack of a common risk metric with current methods, is also proposed. A case study, based on a proposed spaceport in the state of Oklahoma showed that the estimates we generate through our framework consistently outperform estimates provided by any individual hazard, or by the independent combination of those hazards. Furthermore, the study revealed that using anything else than fusion could provide seriously misleading results, with potentially catastrophic consequences.


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Graduation Date





Rabelo, Luis


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Industrial Engineering and Management Systems

Degree Program

Industrial Engineering








Release Date

May 2007

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)