What will the space traveler fatality rate due to spacecraft anomalies be in the 2020's?

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2021 has seen the realization of the dream of private space tourism, with the successful flight of Blue Origin's New Shepherd and Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, and SpaceX's "Inspiration 4" mission. Professional astronauts travelling to and living on the ISS and Tiangong also continues as usual. The purpose of this question is to characterize the near-term risk of flying to space for all space travelers.

What will be the space traveler fatality rate due to spacecraft anomalies in the 2020's?

Deaths must be on a vehicle that is designed to travel above 50 miles (80.5 km) in altitude, or otherwise occur above 50 miles, meeting the US DoD criteria for astronaut wings. As of the writing of this question this includes anything already in or which reaches orbit, spacewalks, as well as both the New Shepherd and SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicles. Deaths must be on routine flights, and not during development, training, or testing. To date, Wikipedia's List of spaceflight-related accidents and injuries tallies 19 deaths during spaceflight after excluding deaths during training and testing, which are the only deaths on that page which would meet the intent of this question.

Deaths must also be of (actual or potential) space travelers who are on the vehicle, and not surrounding people. Accidents on supporting infrastructure does not count, unless that accident causes an event on the vehicle which then itself causes fatalities. For example, a fire on a launch pad would not count, that fire causing the vehicle to explode and kill pad workers or observing astronauts would also not, but that vehicle explosion killing people in the capsule would. Deaths on the ground due to falling debris also would not count.

The fatality rate will be determined by dividing the number of spaceflight fatalities by the number of space travelers between the dates of 2020-01-01 and 2029-12-31. The total number of space travelers will be determined by summing the number of US DoD-qualified people on List of space travelers by name and Commercial astronaut, and subtracting the 574 people on the 2019-12-31 edit of the first page. As of 2021-09-09 this stands at 587 + 7 - 574 = 20. The number of fatalities will be determined from the "Astronaut fatalities: During Spaceflight" section of List of spaceflight-related accidents and injuries page, excluding training and testing, with dates in the 2020's. Names must have been on either list for three months in the event of editing controversies. Comparable pages will be used if those are not available at the time of resolution, or do not meet the intent of this question.

As of the writing of this question, the fatality rate in the 2020's is 0%, and prior to 2020 is 19/574 = 3.3%.

[fine-print] The resolution criteria is on a per-person basis, so an astronaut who takes multiple flights would not count multiple times. Astronauts who first flew before 2020 and take another flight in the future would also be excluded from the total number of space travelers under the resolution criteria, though their death would count.

Acute injuries which lead to death on the ground within a month will count as deaths.

Deaths due to health conditions not caused by an anomaly (excitement-induced heart attacks, for example) will not count for the purposes of this question.

In-space homocides, deaths due to sabotage, or other intentional deaths will not count for the purposes of this question.

"Space traveler" is used as a general term and is meant to encompass professional astronauts/cosmonauts, tourists, etc.

Make predictions in percents. A fatality rate of 1% would correspond to a prediction of 1, not 0.01. [/fine-print]

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2021 has seen the realization of the dream of private space tourism, with the successful flight of Blue Origin's New Shepherd and Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, and SpaceX's "Inspiration 4" mission. Professional astronauts travelling to and living...

Last updated: 2022-08-08
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