High Resolutions Satellite Imaging of Nitrogen Dioxide from Low Earth Orbit; Virtue and Utilitarianism Ethics Analysis on the responsibility of Engineers and Regulators on the design and launch of the Boeing 737 MAX

Tran, Huy, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Goyne, Christopher, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of Virginia
Laugelli, Benjamin, Science, Technology, and Society UVA Engineering, University of Virginia

My technical paper and my STS research paper are connected as the main applications of the aerospace industry and how it is going to affect other aspects of society. Originally, when mentioning aerospace technology, the majority would think about the air and space travel, military applications, and human expansions on another planet. I choose to focus on a smaller and more relevant aspect of aerospace that could benefit society more directly. Firstly, my technical work focuses on designing a 3U cube Satellite that houses a spectrograph that acquires high spatial resolution nitrogen dioxide data from major cities. This work will show that aerospace vehicles can directly help informs policy-maker to restrict the impacts of pollution and better understand existing generators of pollution to protect the health of the public. Secondly, my STS paper explores that aerospace technology does not immune to political and economic competition. This impact could cause a compromise in engineering decision making, thus, leading to poor decisions from the engineer and the policymaker.
For my technical work, I will be partnering with Astronomy, Astronomy Instrumentation, Environmental Science and Electrical Engineering Department to design a spacecraft that will be hand-launched from the International Space Station (ISS). The spacecraft takes a form of a 3U Cube Satellite that will be carried to the ISS through Northrop Grumman Rocket in Wallop. I am part of the structure team for the design. My role is to design and create a light yet strong structures and housing for the electronics along with the spectrograph system. The structure needs to be able to hold the spectrograph in the correct position while withstanding launching and orbiting load due to acceleration, vibration, and thermo stress.
For my STS research paper, I look at the failure of the Boeing 737 Max program that leads to the infinite grounding of the program and two deadly accidents. By using both virtue ethics and utilitarianism ethics, I point out that both Boeing engineers and FAA regulators are responsible for this technical disaster. Boeing engineers fail to exercise three ethical conducts: expertise, clear and informative communication, and striving for quality. Because of the rush timeline and pressure from Airbus, Boeing engineers have made unnecessary compromises leading to poor decisions on design, project management, and training. On the other hand, FAA regulators are to blame when they give special treatment to a home-grown company – Boeing that leads to the overall impact on US economy.
Working on both projects at the same time added value to both. My STS work gave me a lesson on how to morally design a satellite under pressure for my technical work. Even though the timeline is strict, I should not make any compromise on my design and to make sure to weight and think carefully about the decisions I made. I need to make sure I can deliver a high-quality finishing product. My technical work puts me in the shoes of an engineer working on the aerospace project. This helps me to view the technical disaster and poor engineering decisions from another point of view such that I can have a better view of the problem.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Boeing 737 Max, CubeSat, Virtue Ethics

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering
Technical Advisor: Christopher Goyne
STS Advisor: Benjamin Laugelli
Technical Team Members: Isabel Araujo, Genesis Brockett, Alex Brookes, Noah DeMatteo, Max Diamond, Sami Khatouri, William McNicholas, Matt Moore, Adelaide Pollard, William Schaefermeier, Hannah Umansky

All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: