Ariane 5 Rocket Disaster

Topics: Ethics, Morality, Immanuel Kant Pages: 3 (1016 words) Published: June 1, 2013
Ariane 5 Rocket Disaster
On the 4th of June 1996, around 40 seconds after initiation of the flight sequence, the maiden flight of the Ariane 5 Launcher ended in failure. An independent Inquiry Board was nominated to determine the cause of the launcher failure, and found that the inertial reference system (IRS) was the cause of this incident; a system error propagating through the control, commanding large corrections in altitude leading to the destruction of the vehicle. During the development of the Ariane 5, the cheaper alternative to the recommended extensive tests and reviews did not include adequate testing and analysis of the IRS or the complete flight control system; a shortcoming that could have detected the potential failure (Lions, 1996).

The stakeholders in this disaster involve the development team and the investors in the project. The investors’ moral values are based strongly on the economic viability, technological advancement of the project, and public safety, while the development teams’ moral values are based on project success, public safety, plus time and economic constraints. We can see that both of the stakeholders have common interests, however the level of adherence to and importance of these interests are where the difference lies. The major ethical problem raised in this disaster was in regard to the level of assumption that the development team placed on their design. Was it appropriate for the design team to implement the Ariane 4 IRS on the Ariane 5 rocket without appropriate testing? From a design perspective, this lack of thoroughness goes against good design practice. Morally, this goes against several different ethical theories, which will be presented henceforth.

“Deontology argues that decisions should be made considering the factors of one's duties and other's rights” (Wikipedia, 2013). If we consider the values of each stakeholder, we can then determine the duties and rights of each party on which the moral decisions...

Bibliography: LIONS, Prof. J. L., 1996, Ariane 5 Flight 501 Failure Report by the Inquiry Board.
Available from: [11 April 2013]
Categorical Imperative – Wikipedia, 2013. Categorical Imperative.
Available from: [14 April 2013]
Normative Ethics – Wikipedia, 2013. Deontology.
Available from: [14 April 2013]
Contractualism – Stanford Encyclopoedia of Philosophy, 2007. Contractualism.
Available from: [14 April 2013]
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