Designing the Safety Standards for Space Tourism


The School of Human-Centered Design, Innovation & Art Wants to Make Space Flight for Civilians Safe—and Comfortable

Space tourism is on the horizon…it’s just a matter of when.

But before citizens take their first joy ride into space, a set of safety regulations needs to be in place. Set by Federal Aviation Administration, the rules will likely incorporate commercial jet-type specifications along with requirements specific to human space flight.

Guy Boy, dean of the School of Human-Centered Design, received a grant from the FAA to craft rules and regulations that would keep passengers and crew safe from the ground to zero G. With previous experience on the certification of commercial aircraft, and with his position as a NASA scientist who worked during the space shuttle era, Boy considers factors such as safety, efficiency and comfort for passengers.

“Nobody has done this before,” he said. “We have a chance to provide recommendations and criteria for certification for commercial/tourist spacecraft at the ground floor. We expect it to be a long-term project.”

Boy and his team are working with FAA Commercial Space Transportation to propose human-systems integration verification principles for new-spacecraft certification. They will be looking closely at several areas that consider a person’s place within the commercial spacecraft’s framework, such as:

  • The design and organization of flight decks so they make sense to a pilot wearing protective gear in zero gravity.
  • Allocating work between humans and machines.
  • Best practices for restraining individuals and objects inside the vehicle. Considerations include viability, comfort and safety.
  • Physiological factors: acceptance of vibrations, noise and reassuring passengers that the vehicle provides acceptable constraints.
  • Physical requirements of passengers. What will be the fitness baseline?

When coming up with these standards, Boy says he always keeps the human user at the center of his research.  Boy’s colleague, Ondrej Doule, assistant professor of Human-Centered Design and Aerospace Engineering, who also works on design related to space flight, says. “Commercial human space flight has to embrace professional human-systems integration at the very beginning of concept creation to successfully send people to space. We at HCDi are excited to help make that happen.”


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